Top Nutrition Tips for Athletes
3. Go Easy on Fat
For long events, such as marathons, the body turns to fat for energy when carbohydrate sources run low. But most athletes get all the fat they need by following basic dietary guidelines: Eat mostly unsaturated fat from foods such as nuts, avocados, olives, vegetable oils, and fatty fish such as salmon and tuna. Experts recommend avoiding fatty foods on the day of an event, since they can cause stomach distress for some people.
4. Drink Fluids Early and Often
High-intensity exercise, especially in hot weather, can quickly leave you dehydrated. Dehydration, in turn, can hurt your performance and, in extreme cases, be life-threatening.
"All high-intensity athletes should drink fluids early and often," says Dubost. "And don't wait until you're thirsty. By the time you feel parched, you may be seriously dehydrated."
"One way to monitor hydration is to keep an eye on the color of your urine," says Joshua Evans, MD, a physician at Children's Hospital of Michigan in Detroit and an expert on dehydration.
A pale yellow color means you're getting enough fluid. Bright yellow or dark urine means you're falling short.
Because intense exercise causes rapid fluid loss, it's a good idea to drink fluids before as well as during an event, says Dubost.
- For endurance athletes such as marathon runners or long-distance cyclists, experts recommend drinking 8 to 12 ounces of fluid every 10 or 15 minutes during an event.
- When possible, drink chilled fluids, which are more easily absorbed than room temperature water. Chilled fluids also help cool your body down.
5. Replenish Lost Electrolytes
Sweating causes both fluid and electrolyte loss. Electrolytes help transmit nerve signals in your body, and play many other important roles. To replenish lost electrolytes, many athletes reach for sports drinks. If you lose a lot of fluid sweating, experts recommend diluting sports drinks with equal amounts of water to get the best balance of fluid and electrolytes.