Proper nutrition for athletes; menu and recipes

What is an ideal diet for athletes?

Instead of a variety of vitamins and protein supplements with which we often exaggerate, today proper nutrition for athletes involves a completely different approach. The most important thing is daily consumption of fresh, organically grown fruits and vegetables. These groceries contain all the valuable nutrients that are needed during endurance training and competition.

In our article we will try to bring you closer to how a healthy menu for athletes looks like, and how it can freely be applied to recreational and professional purposes.

What the healthy nutrition for athletes should be based on?

Scientists have discovered that professional athletes have a higher level of sex and growth hormones in the blood than other people. There, among other things, is the secret to their youthfulness.

Physical activity definitely requires a higher energy consumption, proteins and a variety of other foods. A healthy diet for athletes should be based on those whose glycaemic index is lower (oats, wholemeal bread, wheat bran, fresh fruits).

This so-called sports food is digested more slowly, so there are no sudden jumps in blood sugar, and consequently increased secretion of insulin. Always eat three hours before the start of physical activity, drink water before, during and after exercise. Priority should be given to lower carbohydrate diets, among which the gap should not be greater than three hours.

Plant proteins instead of animal ones

Proper nutrition for athletes should rely on foods of plant origin. Why is that? Plants contain all the necessary minerals and vitamins and enough protein.

Doctor Russell Citenden from Yale, worked on several studies that have shown that athletes who consumed more vegetable protein had more endurance than those who consumed proteins of animal origin.

Some of the great athletes - Edwin Moses, Carl Lewis, Martina Navratilova and Mike Tyson - eventually completely ceased to consume foods of animal origin. Of course, if they want to eat meat, athletes are encouraged poultry, beef, lamb and goat, as well as catfish, perch, trout, hake, pike and carp.
How useful are protein supplements in the diet

Many athletes, in addition to meat and other animal foods, eat special protein supplements. They believe that additional proteins enables faster growth of muscles and increases their strength, which is a big misconception.

Why is it like that? In a short time they will increase the muscle mass, but will reduce their durability, while the bones become weaker and more prone to injury. In the long term this is certainly not desirable, since proper nutrition for athletes, it should not rely on protein supplements, but be based on healthy organic food.

Proteins are made up of molecules of amino acids, the body uses twenty, eight of whom enter through food (essential amino acids), while the other twelve are produced by the body.

Which foods are rich in protein and are recommended to athletes

The list is lengthy: baked potato, brown rice, whole wheat flour, tomatoes, beans, squash, corn, oats, asparagus, Brussels sprouts - all these are the foods that contain all eight amino acids in an amount effective for people who engage in sports (lysine, isoleucine, methionine, leucine, feninalanin, tryptophan, threonine and valine).

Plant proteins are an essential part of sports nutrition and each specialist (nutritionist) strongly recommends them.

Scientists have shown that excessive amounts of calcium from the animal protein weakens the bones (99 percent of this mineral is stored in the bones). Also, a healthy diet for athletes excludes excessive consumption of animal protein. These foods create an acidic reaction, and in addition to the said minerals extract magnesium and potassium from bones, teeth, nails and hair, which consequently weakens them.

Vitamins and minerals for athletes in the form of supplements

When it comes to dietary supplements, it is best to avoid them, unless it is recommended by a qualified person. Supplements for athletes cannot fully replace the vitamins and minerals contained in natural foods.

In some people supplements of vitamin C can enhance the formation of kidney stones and cause diarrhoea and other digestive problems. Also, when we take a lot of vitamins in tablet forms, and then abruptly stop with this - the body becomes dependent on high doses, and gingival bleeding may occur (mainly due to tooth brushing).

Proper nutrition for athletes does not involve taking large quantities of vitamin C in supplements because it can cause increased absorption of iron, which can cause health problems, because the excess of this mineral is toxic.

Moreover, the problems can occur due to high doses of vitamins A, D, E and K, as they are difficult to remove from the body. Vitamin D taken in high doses, may interfere with the absorption of calcium and cause a build-up in the blood, and therefore lead to serious health problems. Also, vitamin E is harmful in large quantities, and the consequences are diarrhoea, nausea, weakness.

In addition to vitamins and minerals in tablets and capsules, there are flavourings, sweeteners, preservatives, stabilizers and the like which cannot be really classified as healthy ingredients, and they certainly are not the best nutrition for athletes.

Athlete’s nutrition; menu for one day

Proper nutrition for athletes includes balanced meals during each day. On this occasion, we give you a few suggestions:

How should a healthy athlete’s breakfast look like?

First suggestion:
  • Soak 3 tablespoons of barley in cold water and let it stand for 3 hours, and then mix it with 3 almonds, 2 apples, 2 oranges and 3 tablespoons of raw hazelnuts. Leave it to rest for half an hour and then eat.

Another suggestion:
  • Mix a tablespoon of drought (paste or minced), 4 tablespoons of almond and 4 tablespoons of oats (which has been soaked in the water for about 3 hours), and then mix and add a bit of carob powder and cinnamon.

Proper nutrition for athletes includes a healthy lunch, rich in vegetable proteins

Recipe No.1
Brush 200 g perch fillets with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and bake in preheated oven already at 200 degrees for thirty minutes. 
Eat with a cabbage salad seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice and unrefined sea salt.

Recipe No. 2
Soak 5 tablespoons of buckwheat in cold water and leave it to stand overnight. In the morning boil it and add 4 tablespoons of cooked quinoa 3 tablespoons finely chopped cashews, 2 finely chopped red bell pepper, finely chopped 2 cloves of garlic and 2 chopped tomatoes. 
Pour the olive oil and lemon juice, then add 1/2 a teaspoon of cayenne pepper and 1/2 a teaspoon of chopped rosemary.

The menu for athletes is not complete without a light and healthy dinner:

The first recipe:
  • Cut 3 bananas and kiwi into pieces and mix them with a little cinnamon, a little carob powder and 1/2 a tablespoon of olive oil.

Another recipe:
  • Mix 3 tablespoons of strawberry, 2 apples, 1/2 a pineapple, 3 tablespoons of blueberries and add a tablespoon of olive oil, little cinnamon and a little carob powder.

A healthy diet for athletes; recipes that you must try

In order for a diet of recreational athletes to be on a higher level, it is not enough just to watch what you eat and how much. Water is mandatory and healthy freshly squeezed juices between all daily meals.

Here are some suggestions:
  1. Squeeze 1/2 a pineapple, 2 tablespoons of blueberries, 2 tablespoons of raspberry and 1 whole carrot. Drink slowly in small sips.
  2. Squeeze 2 tomatoes, 2 carrots, 2 beetroots and 1 apple. Consume in small sips.
  3. Squeeze 2 tablespoons of strawberries, 2 oranges, 2 apples, 2 tablespoons of raspberries and 2 tablespoons of blackberries. Also, do not drink it all at once, but slowly.
  4. Squeeze 1 lemon, 2 oranges and 2 apples and drink between dinner and lunch.
  5. Squeeze 2 beetroots, 2 carrots, 1/2 a celery root medium size. Drink this healthy squeezed juice at least two hours after a meal.

NOTE: To all juices you can also add a teaspoon of olive oil and two spoonfuls of homemade honey.

What else every athlete needs to know

Maintaining a normal body weight is of great importance for every person who is engaged in sports. Being overweight not only burdens the heart, but also weakens the muscles, joints and bones, causing their degeneration.

Proper nutrition for athletes includes a hearty breakfast and lunch and a light dinner, with balanced physical activity.

This is exactly the best way to avoid the accumulation of excess weight around the waist. This rule applies to other people who are rarely involved in sports.

Are alcoholic beverages permitted?

Athletes should not drink alcohol, and smoking is absolutely prohibited. A healthy diet for athletes should include greater amounts of freshly squeezed juices throughout the day, they still need to drink them on an empty stomach or between meals.

At least two hours after a meal you should not go to training or competition. Otherwise, the energy required for the digestion of food, goes on sport activities.

In between training or competitions, squeezed juices can be drunk to restore lost energy, and in doing so are quickly digested – we need such a diet after training sessions.

A healthy diet for athletes is not enough itself to achieve good results, so you should take into account other recommendations and opinions. This is especially important when it comes to sleeping, the ideal time for sleeping is from nine in the evening until six in the morning.