Whenever an individual engages in a physical activity such as going for a light jog or training for the olympics – nutrition is essential to the athlete’s success. They body needs a balance of protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, and minerals in order to operate at peak performance. Without that balance, the athletes will notice a significant drop off in output and concentration. In order to get you on the right track, here’s a list of nutrients to get you started.

Carbohydrates

Carbs come in two different varieties – complex carbs and simple sugars. Complex carbs are often referred to as starches. This classification includes breads, grain, pasta, and rice. Simple sugars are a carbohydrate that naturally occurs in milk, fruits, and vegetables. Refined simple sugars like honey and white sugar are used for their sweet flavor, but also in increase carb intake.

Carbs are the nutrient that is generally used first because the body can only store up to two days worth of carbohydrates. They provide energy once the body has broken it down into glucose.

Protein

Think of protein as the foundation for your muscles. Protein is necessary for repairing and building muscle and tissue, so it’s an extremely important nutrient for athletes. Without enough of it, recovery times will be much slower, and building strength will be a slow process.

You can find protein in meat, eggs, soy, and nuts.

Fat

Fats have two important jobs – assisting the body absorbs other nutrients and being a source of energy. Even though fats are important to the body, too much of them can lead to weight gain. There are also “good” and “bad” fats. The good are unsaturated fats commonly found in avocados and nuts. The bad are saturated fats found in processed food and meat.

Developing a Nutrition Strategy

Athletes should consider working with a nutritionist to develop a plan specifically for their training and activity levels. Knowing exactly what to eat or which nutrients are needed the most at various points throughout the day will lead to better performance, concentration, energy levels, weight management, and recovery. It’s amazing how a proper diet can make or break your game, so be sure to incorporate a nutrition plan into your training.