Your Preseason Nutrition Plan

Weight Gain and Loss

Calorie is the amount of energy in food. Regardless of where they come from, the calories you eat are either converted to physical energy or stored as body fat. If you eat 100 calories a day more than your body needs, you may gain up to 10 pounds in a year. For an athlete to take off one pound of weight, they must burn 3,500 calories more per week or cut 500 calories from the diet each day. The average racing woman should try to consume approximately 3 to 4 oz. of lean protein per meal, half to 1 cup of whole grains per meal, and 1 to 2 cups of brightly colored fruits and vegetables per meal.

More: 6 Weight Loss Power Vegetables 

Muscle Building

Protein is needed to build and repair muscle, assist in producing hormones, boost the immune system, and replace red blood cells.

Athletes need slightly more protein than the average American to build new muscle tissue and repair the damage done during intense preseason training. The metabolism of protein during exercise is multifactorial. This process is altered by certain stimuli, such as intensity, duration, and type of exercise, as well as training environment, protein and energy intake, age and sex of the individual.

How much protein does an athlete need? The truth is that no scientific evidence has proven that protein intake exceeding 0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight will provide an additional advantage. Excessive protein is oxidized and is stored as triglycerides.

More: 50 Ways to Feed Your Muscles

Balance and Recovery

If muscle glycogen reserves are not replenished, athletes may feel increasingly fatigued from one training session to the next. Always replenish glycogen by eating a balanced meal approximately one to two hours before a scheduled workout. Include foods that are higher in complex carbohydrates and avoid high fat or higher fiber foods before training. Good choices include whole grain pasta, brown rice, whole grain pita, small amounts of granola, fresh fruit, and low fat dairy products such as greek yogurts.

Immediately after exercise (within 30 minutes) the goal of the athlete is to provide the body with carbohydrates and protein to shift the metabolic activity, speed elimination of waste by increasing blood flow, replenish glycogen, initiate tissue repair, prepare for muscle growth, reduce muscle damage, and improve the immune system. The body will stay in a catabolic state (muscle break down) if food is not supplied. Animal studies show that those who are fed within 30 minutes of exercise completion have a 6 percent increase in lean body mass, fat oxidizing enzymes are increased by 70 percent, and abdominal fat decreases by 24 percent.

For early-morning workouts when a full meal is not possible, consume a carbohydrate based snack, 30 to 60 minutes before training. A smoothie made with low fat yogurt provides the carbohydrates that can make a difference in workout quality.

More: 3 Recipes for Fast Recovery

Daily Menu

So what should a preseason training diet look like? Approximately 60 percent of an athlete's diet should steam from carbohydrates with a mix of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and small amounts of low fat, organic dairy. About 30 percent of an athlete's diet should come from lean proteins, fish, poultry, lean meats, beans, and low fat, organic dairy. Another 10 percent of an athlete's diet should come from quality fats, olive and canola oils, nuts and nut butters, seeds, and avocados.

Smart nutrition goals for every athlete are to always enjoy a nutrient rich, mostly plant-based diet. Always fuel before, possibly during and after exercise. Balance energy by eating small, frequent meals throughout the day and be sure to hydrate adequately with water, herbal teas and natural juices. Good nutrition will always enhance performance. Never let poor nutrition be a limiting factor.

More: The ABC's of Sports Nutrition

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