Athletes have to diet differently because the food they eat fuels them — but only if they eat the right nutrients. It doesn’t matter if you’re a boxer, runner, or ball player. It’s essential that you consume foods that provide energy, build muscle mass, and help you to maintain a healthy weight.
Carbs Are Key
Carbohydrates have a horrible reputation, but that’s mainly because so few people understand the difference between complex and simple carbs. Athletes need carbohydrates to fuel their bodies. The body takes complex, healthy carbohydrates and turns them into glucose. Then, the glucose goes to the muscles, where it’s stored as glycogen. That glycogen becomes the energy that fuels your exercises and training routines. When athletes talk about carbo-loading a few days before a game, a race, or a tournament, this is why they do it.
How do they do it? They focus on unrefined complex carbohydrates. Athletes can eat some of the “white” foods that are often considered verboten, including bread and pasta, but it’s better if their carbs come from whole grain sources. Simple carbs aren’t entirely unhealthy, either. They have their place for athletes who need quick bursts of energy. Athletes also get complex fibrous carbs from vegetables. The simple rule of thumb is to focus on brown or green carbs rather than white ones.
Macronutrients Build Muscles
In the quest to gain muscle and to tone your body, it’s easy to get caught up in the labels of what you should eat. Instead of focusing on X amount of protein and Y amount of carbs, load up on macronutrients. They are the primary building blocks that your body needs for energy and strength. They consist of healthy fats, carbs, and protein, along with antioxidants and fiber-rich vegetables.
You may need to experiment with a variety of combinations to find what works for you. Going back to the discussion of carbohydrates, you might find luck with carb-cycling combined with lean proteins and fatty acids. For bodybuilding, the ideal diet is mostly carbs, with up to 35% of protein and the rest composed of fat.
Count Calories for a Different Reason
The act of building muscle requires bulk, but you have to make sure that you aren’t consuming foods that will just convert to fat. It’s particularly critical to keep an eye on your calorie count and ensure you are getting the right combination of nutrients in your daily diet to achieve your goals.
To that end, it doesn’t hurt to maintain a food diary. In fact, it’s a helpful supplement to food combining. You’ll have detailed information about everything you put in your body, conveniently gathered in one place.
What foods ensure your best performance as an athlete? What do you eat as you train? Following the guidelines above should help you maximize your diet.