by: Sydney Messick, RD, LD
Nutrition is an often overlooked but extremely important piece of the puzzle when it comes to athletic performance. No matter the level – from Little League to high school and casual exercisers to elite level athletes – proper nutrition can make the difference between reaching your goals and getting frustrated when the hard work doesn’t seem to be paying off. As the saying goes: put good in, get good out.
Here are four common nutrition mistakes many individuals make that can impact athletic performance:
1. Low Carb. If you are an athlete, this popular diet fad is not for you. The pros and cons of this fad diet are too many to detail here, but the main point for athletes is that carbohydrates are your body’s preferred fuel source. Without them, or without the proper types, you will likely find physical activity rather difficult – especially if you are an endurance athlete. High quality carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low fat dairy provide energy and tons of important nutrients that your body needs to perform its best.
2. Skipping Snacks. Many people skip snacks (or even whole meals) throughout the day, thinking they’re doing themselves a favor by cutting calories. Then, they try to hit the gym or head to practice and have no energy or get home and are ravenous, eating everything in sight. Snacks are a great way to keep your metabolism going throughout the day, stabilize blood sugar levels, and give you the energy you need to train your best and focus throughout the day. Fuel up during the most active part of your day with balanced meals and snacks and, if you are trying to cut back on calories to lose weight, save it for evening and night hours when you’re less active and sleeping.
3. No Post-Workout Fuel. Of all the snacks to skip, this would NOT be it. Many people are afraid of “undoing” the physical activity just did at practice by eating a post-workout meal or snack, when actually quite the opposite is true. The post-workout snack should involve a combination of carbohydrate to replenish fuel stores and prevent muscle protein breakdown and protein to help rebuild muscle. Of course, fueling is more important after some workouts than others (an easy 20 minute jog doesn’t really require refueling…a 10 mile run or intense 2 hour practice does), but trying to get something in your system within 30 minutes of activity is a good goal, whether that be a meal or a snack to hold you over to your next meal.
4. Loads of Supplements. In short, you don’t really need powders and other supplements for before, during, and after workouts. The calories from protein powders, shakes, and bars can add up quickly while providing little to no other nutrients. Real foods (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy) are the best for providing nutrients and easily meet your needs if you consume a balanced diet with adequate calories. There are some instances where protein powders, shakes, or bars can be useful, but they should not take the place of a balanced diet of real foods. Consult with a registered dietitian or other health care professional knowledgeable in the area of supplements before adding any to your routine so you can be sure they are safe and will help you meet your goals.
Sydney is a registered dietitian specializing in sports nutrition in Manhattan, KS. She completed her undergraduate degrees in Dietetics, Kinesiology, and Human Nutrition at Kansas State University while competing on the Kansas State cross country and track teams. Upon graduation, she completed her dietetic internship at Saint Louis University with an emphasis in Nutrition and Physical Performance. Currently, she is finishing her M.S. in Kinesiology at Kansas State University, with research focusing on cardiovascular function and performance in female athletesSocial tagging: diet > Don Hooton > food > nutrition > Taylor Hooton Foundation