For an athlete to do her best, a nutrition plan is essential. The nutrition plan starts by scheduling the timing of your three meals and three snacks. As an athlete, it is important for you to eat every two or three hours. The next step is to write a menu, which will then help generate your shopping list for meals, snacks and beverages. Choosing foods you like to eat and know how to prepare for meals and snacks will help you meet your nutritional needs and fuel you for your sport.
Weekly Meal Plan
A weekly meal plan can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. Start with breakfast. Whether you prefer cereal or baked oatmeal, breakfast starts each day off right with energy for your sport. Next will be one of the three daily snacks. Have a snack with 100 to 200 calories, for example, sliced fruit or vegetables or a granola bar. For lunch, leftovers from the previous night's dinner will make a quick-and-easy meal. Alternatively, grab the bread and make a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Create a Grocery List
Once your menu is in place, make a shopping list. A list will not only help save you time in the grocery store, it will also help you focus on buying the right foods to fuel your body. Reach for whole grains and load up on the fruits and vegetables. Try to shop the perimeter of the grocery store and only grab those essential items in the aisles.
Snacks are important for athletes, because they provide you with extra calories you need before and after a practice or workout. Depending on your sport, you may even need to eat during the workout. A good snack is easy for you to digest, high in carbohydrates and low in protein, fiber and fat. Some great examples of convenient snacks include granola bars, gold fish crackers, pretzels and chocolate milk.
Hydration is often over looked by athletes. Carry a water bottle, refill it often and aim to consume one milliliter for every calorie consumed. In other words, if you eat 2500 calories, you need to drink 2500 milliliters throughout the day. Try to avoid caffeinated, carbonated and sugary drinks since they are dehydrating and negatively affect your performance.
- Sports Nutrition; Marie Dunford and Sports Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutritionist Dietetic Practice Group
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Nutrition Care Manual®
Heather Colleran is a registered dietitian and a board certified specialist in sports dietetics. She earned her Ph.D. in human nutrition from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and is a certified strength-and-conditioning coach through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Colleran has contributed to the “Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics” and “Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.”