Your Health: Top 5 sports nutrition tips to make you stronger and fitter | SierraSun.com

Your Health: Top 5 sports nutrition tips to make you stronger and fitter

Jill Whisler
Special to the Sun-Bonanza

A healthy smoothie prepared with orange, apple and carrots is a great way to start your day.

Whether your goal is packing on muscle, going the distance or losing that gut — you have to think long-term.

Effective sports nutrition is about many factors adding up over time. One meal is not as important as what you do over 365 days! So, think marathon, not sprint.

Even though there's nothing that will make you an instant athlete (or take the place of that last set of reps), the right food and drink can help you work harder, train longer and look better.

Good nutrition supports good workouts, and good workouts make the most of good nutrition. It's all about the habits and routines you practice most of the time.

Here are five great nutrition tips to work into your routine:

1. Eat a Good Breakfast

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Focus on carbs for Energy! Carbohydrates are the main energizing fuel for working muscles. Without enough carbohydrate you may feel weak and tired, which will affect your performance.

Choose plenty of good-quality carbohydrates with each meal — whole wheat bread or pasta, quinoa, oatmeal and brown rice. Fruits and starchy vegetables such as beans, peas and sweet potatoes are also good sources of healthy carbohydrates.

Start the day with a breakfast containing carbs and a source of protein (such as eggs, yogurt or milk). Oatmeal made with milk; last night's dinner leftovers; an egg sandwich; or a smoothie made with fruit, yogurt or protein powders are all great breakfast choices.

2. Spread out Protein Foods

Muscles love protein. It helps them stay strong, recover from intense exercise and build more muscle over time.

High-quality protein will help your muscles rebuild and repair so you can be stronger and more powerful. Lean meats, eggs, nuts and nut butters, yogurt, low-fat milk or cheese, or soy milk are all great sources of quality protein.

Athletes should spread protein foods throughout the day, having some protein at each meal and with most snacks.

3. Flow the Fluids

When you are well-hydrated you perform better. Drink 2-3 cups of fluid two hours before you plan to workout and 1-2 cups about 30 minutes before.

Being well-hydrated will help you feel more energized and alert. Lack of fluid can leave you feeling tired, dizzy and clumsy, making you more likely to stumble and hurt yourself.

Plan to drink eight gulps of fluid about every 15 minutes during a hard workout, especially if you are outdoors. If you are training outdoors for more than an hour, a sports drink is recommended for replacing fluid and electrolytes lost through sweat.

Sports drinks are designed for use during extended workouts, not at the lunch and dinner table. If you are active for an hour or less, plain water will do the trick.

4. Pair Protein and Carbohydrate for Recovery

Protein combined with carbohydrate helps your muscles recover after a tough workout. Aim for 7-10g of protein and 30-40g of carbohydrate.

A fresh fruit with trail mix or low-fat chocolate milk are all good options for a recovery snack. Be sure to watch the portion so you do not replace all the calories you just worked so hard to burn!

5. Aim for Food First

Nutrient-rich foods provide all the energy and nutrition your body needs for best performance and are cheaper than sports supplements. Be skeptical of supplement promises!

Some supplements have caused athletes to test positive for banned substances. Choose bars with the least amount of ingredients, or explore making your own.

Interested in getting a more specific plan for your sports nutrition regime getting a nutritional clean-up? Call the Tahoe Center for Health and Sports Performance to schedule an appointment with Jill Whisler or Betsy Taylor — athletes and Registered Dietitian Nutritionists — at 530-587-3769.

Jill Whisler, MS, RD is a nutritionist with Tahoe Forest Health System's Wellness Neighborhood, promoting Rethink Healthy. B-FIT (Be Fit in Tahoe) is a program providing wellness to our community. If you are interested in more information, email mmartin@tfhd.com.

Recovery ideas

Chocolate Milk: 16-oz serving

Peanut Butter, honey and banana toast: 2 slices whole grain toast, 2 Tbsp natural peanut butter, 1 tsp honey and ½ banana

Apples + Yogurt: 1 apple, 1 ½ cups low-fat Greek yogurt

English Muffin + Almond Butter: 1 whole grain English muffin, 2 Tbsp natural almond butter