Nutrition Essentials: building a Well-Balanced Diet

09 December, 2018
For athletes, the nutrition essentials that make up their diet is highly important. When combined with disciplined training, eating right can help you reach and surpass your physical potential.
 

A balanced diet is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. If you don’t pay attention to the quality of the food you eat, it’s almost impossible to be physically fit. What nutrition essentials need to be included in your diet?

The stress experienced by the body through medium and high-intensity activities can only be compensated by eating right. A well-balanced diet will diminish the accompanying sense of fatigue, and help prevent injury.

Balancing your diet reduces wear on your bones and muscles, facilitates recovery, and promotes increased strength and endurance. Only by making sure you get the nutrition essentials you need, will you be able to meet your fitness goals.

Nutrition essentials: carbohydrates

In order to perform at your best, your body needs enough energy to move. Carbohydrates serve as an athlete’s primary fuel source. For this reason, carb-rich foods form the foundation of the dietary regimens of those who practice sports regularly.

Woman eating pasta

Slow-release carbohydrates are your best option. They energize the body for longer periods of time and are often healthier.

The best carbohydrate options for athletes include bread, pasta, whole-grain rice, and cereals such as oatmeal and corn. Legumes such as lentils, soy and garbanzo beans, and vegetables such as carrots, beets, and potatoes should also be on your list.

 

Some fresh fruits can also provide ample energy. These include bananas, pears, and plums. The same is true of nuts like walnuts, pistachios, and hazelnuts, as well as dairy products such as low-fat and low-salt cheeses. At least one of these foods should be part of every meal that an athlete has.

Carbohydrates shouldn’t be restricted to your standard meals. You can also include them in snacks. If you’re doing a physical activity for more than an hour, you need to replenish the calories with carbohydrates, so as not to tap into the reserves.

Healthy fats

Some people think including fats in an athlete’s diet is counterintuitive. But in reality, this macronutrient is essential to the body’s proper function.

Along with carbohydrates, fats are the best way of giving the body the energy it needs. The confusion surrounding them stems from the mistaken idea that all fats are saturated fats. Saturated fats are detrimental to all people, not just athletes.

The best-quality fats exist in olive oil and avocado, as well as in fresh nuts like walnuts and almonds. Oily fish such as sardines, tuna, and salmon also represent good options.

Woman peeling avocado
 

Proteins

This is the third essential macronutrient. Proteins are responsible for the well-being and proper development of the muscular system, as well as an athlete’s physical performance.

In addition, during long exercise sessions, proteins serve as an alternate energy source after you spend the reserves provided by fats and carbs.

These nutrition essentials are an important part of the recovery process. In addition to consuming them before you exercise, you should also eat proteins immediately after working out or competing.

Eggs are among the most protein-rich foods, as are meats. Nuts and dairy products feature prominently on the list.

A diet without proper hydration is no diet at all

“Water is life!” You’ve no doubt heard this saying? For athletes, though, it’s more than a cliché. Without enough liquids, not only will an athlete’s performance deteriorate dramatically, he or she can also come dangerously close to collapse.

Active athletes need isotonic drinks. In addition to supplying calories, these products also help replenish the mineral salts the body loses by sweating. These are necessary for the body to properly absorb and use water.