In this part, we will continue our discussion on what constitutes a good diet for an athlete and round it off with the best way to plan meal and tips on timing.
Fats are divided into three distinct groups, namely unsaturated, saturated and trans-saturated fatty acids. Saturated fats should always be kept to a minimum as any point in time, while unsaturated fats should form the bulk of the athlete fatty acid consumption. During exercise, these unsaturated fats acts as a secondary sources of energy and have an important role to play in the production of hormones such as adrenalin and growth hormones which are required for maximum performance.
These fats can further be divided into polysaturated fats such as omega 3 and omega 6 and monosaturated fats like omega 9. Omega 3 fats are very important in the diet of every athlete because they provide energy, stabilize blood sugar levels and have an anti-inflammatory effect. They are of two forms, ALA and EPA/DHA. For better intake, a supplement is always advisable.
Examples of unsaturated fats include:
DHA – Fish such as sardines, salmon, fresh tuna and mackerel.
ALA – linseed oil, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, canola and walnuts.
Omega 6 – Sunflower seeds, walnuts, evening primrose, safflower and whole grain.
Omega 9 – olive oil, cashew nuts, macadamia nuts and avocado.
These are nutrients which are required in small quantities. They perform a diverse range of functions and are very important. Such functions they perform include helping to maintain healthy bones, protecting cell damage, maintaining eye sight, aiding the production of glycogen and so on. They include vitamins and minerals found in foods.
Below are some of these micronutrients that are important to athletes and foods you can get them from.
Antioxidants include beta carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E. They help to reduce the effect of harmful free radicals caused by exercise and their sources of food include dried apricots, liver, black currants and beans.
Vitamin B complex
They help the body convert carbohydrates into energy the body can use during physical activities and its food sources include banana, eggs, milk, nuts and yeast.
CO Enzyme Q10
They help the heart functions well by boosting cardiovascular activities and energy levels. The food source includes red meat.
It is an electrolyte that should be replaced after each physical activities by taking foods such as banana, parsley, cashew nuts and cabbage.
Chromium helps the body in stabilizing blood sugar levels and can be found in foods such as mushrooms, whole grain and yeast.
The best way to plan meals
Start by creating a schedule to ensure you are eating regularly and what you take in is in accordance to your body requirement. You can write down the timing of each meal as that will help you in selecting what to eat and when to eat it. This will help ensure that what you are eating is balanced.
Tips on timing
- Eat more around exercise.
- Eat more during the day.
- Eat big meals, then followed by smaller meals.
- Balance blood sugar