You don’t have to be an elite athlete to benefit from the winning performance nutrition strategies of Olympians. Here are 5 medal-worthy ways to optimize your daily nutrition to help you be your best—whether that’s on or off the field.
1. Stay hydrated
One of the most important nutritional factors in performance nutrition is hydration. Drinking fluids is one of the easiest things athletes can do to improve their performance.
How much should you drink to stay adequately hydrated? A good rule is to drink about half your body weight in fluid ounces of water every day. If you weigh 140 pounds, your goal should be about 70 ounces.
2. Savor seafood
Not only is seafood a great source of lean protein, it provides healthy omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA that temper inflammation, reduce risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes and aid recovery. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 2-3 servings (8 to 12 ounces) of seafood each week. What’s more, new study reported in the Nutrition Journal reported that pregnant women who eat the recommended servings of seafood could boost the IQ of their children by up to 3 points, thanks to the neurological benefits provided by marine-based DHA and EPA.
3. Keep the carbs
If you want to fuel your body, you can’t discard carbs. Elite athletes know they must rely on carbohydrates to fuel their muscles and they often work with nutritionists to optimize the type and timing of carbohydrate intake for peak performance. To keep your energy level stable, make sure that about half of all calories are from nutrient rich complex carbohydrates such as fruit, beans, legumes and whole grains and include a healthy carb with most meals and snacks.
4. Power up with protein
Athletes need high-quality protein in meals and snacks to recovery and rebuild muscles post-exercise. Some of the most popular protein choices include fish and seafood, poultry, beef and dairy products. Greek yogurt is another popular and excellent high-quality protein choice – because it’s strained, it has twice the protein of regular yogurt.
For optimal recovery post-exercise, combine protein with carbohydrates within 30 minutes to an hour after exercise. Some examples would be a Greek yogurt smoothie, eggs with potatoes or half a turkey or tuna sandwich.
5. Think progress, not perfection
While food is fuel, it’s also meant to be enjoyed. Being too rigid about what to eat for meals and snacks can make eating more like a chore than a pleasure. Even top athletes allow for occasional indulgences like sweets and fried foods. Aim to eat wholesome foods like veggies, fruit, lean protein, healthy carbs and fats most (about 80%-85%) of the time – especially when you’re at home and can control how food is prepared. But let yourself enjoy a sweet treat or salty snack from time to time, keeping in mind overall calories and your exercise level.