Five Fixable Food Errors
by Dawn Weatherwax, RD, CSSD, LD, LAT, ATC, CSCS
Many Active Individuals and Athletes do not realize how great an impact the right foods, in the right amounts, at the right time, have on sports performance. It can actually affect performance up to 15 percent! Below are the top five common mistakes we all make along with simple tips on how to resolve them.
Mistake #1: Skipping Breakfast
If you go 12 hours without eating the body will start to break down precious muscle as an energy source. And that is the last thing anyone wants to happen.
Not eating breakfast usually means we will not eat for well over 12 hours and coffee does not count as a breakfast!
The number one reason why many people skip breakfast is because they "don't have time." Here are some ideas to counter that excuse:
- As you run out the door, grab a meal replacement bar. Look for those that have 16-30g of protein and at least 250-450 calories.
- Egg sandwiches can be quick and easy. Combine 1 egg and two egg whites and cook them in the microwave for two minutes. Place the cooked eggs on a sliced whole wheat bagel, put a slice of cheese on top, and you've got a very wholesome breakfast in no time. You can even make this sandwich the night before-or make several of them-and put one in the microwave in the morning to heat it up.
- Smoothies that are made from yogurt and a milk/soy/rice based products are wonderful. Again, you can make a big batch, recycle old fluid bottles, and put the smoothie mixture in the bottles.
Berry Banana Blitz 1 banana 8 oz yogurt (plain or flavored) 40-60g of vanilla protein powder/or tofu 1pkg 10 oz frozen strawberries, unsweetened ¼ cup orange juice 1 Tablespoon honey (optional)
Cut banana into chunks. Place into blender with all other ingredients. Cover and blend until smooth. Makes three servings. (Source: The Official Snack Guide for Beleaguered Sports Parents)
Mistake #2: Eating Infrequently
Everyone’s sweat rate is different, so it’s important for athletes to monitor their own hydration status. An easy method is to have athletes check their urine each morning after they awaken. If the color of their urine is pale like lemonade, that’s a sign of proper hydration. If the color of their urine is dark like apple juice, they should consume more fluids during the day. No need to overdo it: usually an extra quart of fluid is sufficient.
In order to have consistent energy levels and maximize performance, you must spread your calories and fluids evenly throughout the day. That means eating something every three to four hours. When you fail to do so, performance suffers. Not being fueled leads to quicker fatigue, mental mistakes, and more soreness from the previous day, all of which prevents from performing at high levels.
The best ways to meet steady energy demands are to start packing. Along with eating breakfast and lunch, a mid morning and mid afternoon snack is essential. Quick and easy snack ideas include:
- Trail mixes with soy nuts and without the candy.
- Peanut/Almond butter and jelly preserve sandwiches.
- Hard Boiled Eggs. One Whole, the rest egg whites and baby carrots . 2 oz high protein cereal (9g of protein per ounce). Many types are delicious even without milk.
- Greek Yogurt, fresh fruit and 1oz almonds
- Premade smoothies or shakes. (Prefer the ones with 20-30g of protein)
- Protein bars (aim for 20-30g of protein and low in saturated fats)ie. Clif Protein Bars, Powerbar Protein Bars
- Vitalicious®Muffin Tops
- Low fat string cheese with whole wheat crackers/Triscuits
- Need Ideas for snacks---New web app! http://webapp.sportsnutrition2go.com/
Mistake #3: Not drinking enough
Having an optimal amount of fluid promotes protein building, fat breakdown and has a positive impact on power, strength, speed and concentration. The first goal is to get at least half of your weight in fluid ounces a day. For example, 120 lb person needs at least 60 oz of water.
Being thirsty is not a great indicator of dehydration. In fact, if you are thirsty you are already 2-4 percent dehydrated.
The goal is to aim for drinking at least one half your weight in fluid ounces a day, NOT including what you drink during activity. Milk, unsweetened tea, sports drinks, and flavored waters all count towards this number. Some quick ideas:
- Carry around a water bottle throughout the day.
- Drink 12-20oz of fluid at breakfast, lunch, after school, and at dinner.
- Need flavor? Add fresh orange slices to spruce it up. Green tea or flavored unsweetened teas are another healthy alternative. Crystal Light and Propel packets are easy to add as well.
Mistake #4: Too many Freebies!
Freebies at SN2Go are foods you should have in moderation. These are foods that are high in sugar and/or unhealthy fat (saturated/trans), such as candy, soda, fried foods, and sweets. Things like donuts, nachos, and Buffalo wings are just a few of many low nutrient dense examples. A lethal combination when the body cannot use these nutrients to build muscle, burn fat and create sustained energy! Also for my alcohol drinkers--- a 12oz beer, 1.5oz of hard liquor and 4-5oz glass of wine are also considered a freebie!!!!
The rule I suggest is to keep consumption to one freebie a day, or seven a week! Trying to eliminate these foods completely is unrealistic, but putting a limit on them is something everyone can work with.
- Keep a cooler or food bag in the trunk of your car/bus with healthy foods. Fill with yogurts, pre-made smoothies, low fat crackers and low fat cheese, whole fruits, baby carrots, and protein bars.
- Clean out the house/apartment. There's no reason to keep tons of freebies in the house. Replace them with great tasting healthy items, such as baked chips, healthy cereals, sandwich foods, and fruit. Eat leftovers from the night before. You will be surprised what you will eat when the freebies are eliminated from the cupboard.
- If you eat out, keep orders simple and well rounded. Grilled/blackened chicken, broccoli and wild rice are good choices. If fast food is the only option, Subway's low fat menu option and Wendy's chili, plain baked potato, mandarin oranges and skim milk are what to choose. SN2G has a Restaurant Guide to help you make good choices! Ask about it!
- Only select food establishments that provide healthy options. That way if the whole team is eating out at one time, this sets up the correct environment.
- As coaches have the parents provide healthy options in the locker room and on the road. The average athlete gets in 5-10 freebies a day. They need more help making healthier choices. If the athlete still chooses an unhealthy option then that is their choice.
Mistake #5: Making Excuses
I have heard all of the excuses possible from the client, coach, parent and the athlete. These excuses include: Changing mine/their nutrition is too hard. I can't control what they eat. They're just picky eaters.
However, excuses don't meet the end result. If sports performance or meeting your health goals ranks a seven or higher on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the highest), then the excuses do not match up with the goal.
Gradually fix these top five mistakes, and watch yourself have more energy-and better work/sports performance--as a result!