How to Eat Like an Athlete: The Best Foods For Performance and Recovery
The Top Foods For Athletic Performance and Recovery
You get out what you put in - and no one knows this better than pro sportsmen and women.
Read our full guide to eating like an athlete!
An athlete’s diet is the key to unlocking faster speeds and quicker recovery times. Food isn't just about getting fuelled up, it’s also about promoting healing and enhancing stamina.
Here’s how you can eat like an athlete.
The Best Foods For Athletes to Boost Performance and Recovery
We all know that good nutrition means eating good food, but when it comes to boosting athletic performance, not all food is created equal.
Some of the best foods for athletes are those rich in carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
These foods can help fuel your muscles, repair your tissues, regulate your hormones, transport oxygen, protect your cells and enhance cognition.
Macronutrients, which include carbohydrates, proteins and fats, are essential for providing energy and supporting overall health, making them particularly important for serious athletes.
It's the fuel that allows an athlete to reach the peak of their performance while seeing to a healthy recovery.
They will be your primary energy source to keep you going during high-intensive physical activities. Carbohydrates should account for roughly 45% to 65% of your daily calorie consumption.
Bananas are a quick and excellent dose of nutrition. Their speciality is providing your body with potassium - an electrolyte that gets lost in sweat and helps maintain low blood pressure.
The average banana has 422mg of potassium, reducing the chance of muscle cramps or spasms by helping your body regulate fluids.
They are a reliable carb source that allows your muscles to perform at their best. Of course, they go phenomenally well with chocolate milk and peanut butter, which are both fantastic for athletes, too!
Oatmeal is an impressive breakfast meal that mixes well with protein shakes. They have a great carb and calorie count and contain plenty of fibre to help balance your glucose levels.
Remember to use steel-cut oats because they sit lower on the glycemic index than instant oats, making them less likely to spike insulin.
The humble sweet potato is quick to prepare and provides a substantial boost for athletes. Their potency lies in their abundant source of vitamins A & C and some vitamin B.
You can have them for dinner or lunch and combine them with black beans and cottage cheese.
Berberine, in particular, is a great supplement if you're looking to increase the amount of carbohydrates in your diet but still keep your blood sugar under control. Berberine has anti-diabetic, anti-obesity and antimicrobial effects.
Protein is crucial for repairing torn muscles and helping them to grow strong.
It also has many other benefits, like maintaining hormone production, enzyme activity and immune function.
Lean meats like beef, pork, chicken, fish and turkey provide high levels of protein that give your body amino acids it cannot produce.
They also contain zinc, iron, selenium and B vitamins that boost energy production by increasing NAD levels in the body, and they help transport oxygen throughout your body.
Eggs are among the best protein sources for anyone doing high-intensity physical activities.
All nine essential amino acids fit neatly and proportionately in the right amounts.
Another fantastic benefit of eggs is choline, which supports brain function and memory. You can consume eggs at any time of the day and choose to have them scrambled, poached, baked or boiled.
Walnuts, peanuts, pistachios, almonds, peanuts and cashews all contain high concentrations of fats, proteins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants.
Together they help combat inflammation, give you more energy, make you feel full for longer and improve recovery. You can have them as a snack or include them in your oatmeal and salads.
Fats give you the necessary energy for low-intensity and long-duration exercise.
They also have benefits that boost the membrane function in your brain, reduce inflammation and help with hormone production.
Your daily food consumption should ideally include between 20% to 35% fats. Go with primarily unsaturated fats from plant-based foods and oily fish.
Oily fish like mackerel, sardines, salmon and trout are superior among other sources of lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids help lower blood pressure, improve blood flow, reduce inflammation and enhance cognitive function.
Avocado is a delicious, creamy fruit with mono-unsaturated fat, fibre, potassium, vitamin E and folate. Mono-unsaturated fat helps to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol.
Vitamins & Minerals (Micronutrients)
Vitamins & minerals, also called micronutrients, are vital contributors to your metabolism, immune function, muscle contraction, oxygen transport, nerve transmission, antioxidant defence and bone health.
Greens like Brussels sprouts, spinach, kale, broccoli, Swiss chard and asparagus are superb for athletes. They offer a substantial nutritional gain through nutrients, fibre, vitamins and plant proteins.
These foods are nutrient powerhouses that improve your blood flow, energy levels, mood and heart rate.
Pumpkin seeds are superb sources of iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese and phosphorus. Iron, in particular, is important for producing healthy blood cells and transporting oxygen to your tissues.
When you lack iron, there aren't enough transporters to distribute oxygen around your body, and you'll become fatigued more quickly.
This can have a negative long-term effect on your immune system, as a lack of oxygen affects every organ in your body.
Dark chocolate is a tasty, guilt-free treat that can also benefit athletes. It contains flavonoids and antioxidants that can improve blood flow, lower blood pressure and reduce oxidative stress.
Most of the time, dark chocolate also has a bit of caffeine in it, which can help to make you more alert and reactive.
Eat Your Way to Athletic Success!
Whether you run for fun, in case the zombie apocalypse is coming, or you’re serious about competing, eating the right foods gives you an advantage.
Enjoy peak performance, speedy recovery times and a nice immune system boost with all the right vitamins and minerals.
You are what you eat. So, eat like an athlete!