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Sports Performance Nutrition for Athletes

To stay on top of their game, athletes need to pay close attention to their diet. What you eat before or after a game, or even during the off-season, can greatly affect your performance on the field.

Players at any level need to give their bodies the right nutrients to help them train properly, play better and recover faster. Try incorporating these strategies into your daily routine.

Eat consistently

Try to eat every 3-4 hours. Most athletes eat only 2-4 times a day. By eating 3 meals and 2-3 snacks daily, you can gain lean tissue, maintain energy levels and recover at an optimal rate. You can't afford to skip meals because you need to maintain your energy level. Develop a regular eating plan that has you fueling up 5-6 times a day, including before and after workouts.

Apply the 2/3 rule

Make sure you have eaten ⅔ of your calories by the time ⅔ of your day is over. This helps you fuel your body for optimal performance, recovery and repair.

Have a post-recovery snack

Aim to eat 15-30 minutes after your workout/game. Your snack should contain at least 6-20g of protein and 30-60g of carbohydrates. For example, 12 oz. of low-fat chocolate milk has the perfect combination of protein and carbohydrates needed for post-workout recovery.

Limit junk foods

The body doesn't use this type of food to build muscle, burn fat or create sustainable energy. Try to consume it in moderation. Limit fried foods, soda, candy and other sweets. Instead, focus on consuming whole, unprocessed foods.

Beverages

You need to say hydrated, particularly before and during practices and games. Water is your best choice. The amount of water you need to drink each day will vary with your size and weight. Sports drinks can work as a supplement, but they tend to be sugary and high in calories, so limit your consumption.

Nutrition on-the-go

Plan ahead by taking snacks with you to eat between games or before practices. Healthy snacks include sports bars, trail mix, whole-grain crackers and beef jerky (natural and chemical-free with no MSG or sodium nitrate). When you go out to eat, order some lean protein, like grilled chicken, and vegetables for a balanced meal.

Vitamins and supplements

Vitamins shouldn't be necessary if you are eating a truly well-balanced diet. Be cautious about using supplements, and always get your doctor's guidance before trying anything new.

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