Most women seem to have one major concern in relation to nutrition: not overeating. But you're not most women. As an athlete, your nutrition concerns range from preventing dehydration and bonking in races to minimizing post-workout muscle soreness.
There's no shortage of sports nutrition information available to help athletes address such issues—which is a problem in itself. Every day, it seems, you hear about a new study proving the performance benefits of some bizarre eating strategy or nutrient you've never heard of. To complicate matters further, sports nutrition companies make so many competing claims you don't know whom to believe. At some point, it all becomes noise.
But fueling your body for maximum athletic performance is not as complicated as it may seem. Everything you need to know to get the results you want can be boiled down to 10 basics.
Rule 1. Keep it Natural
Robust health is the foundation for fitness and athletic performance. Eating for health should therefore be the primary objective of your diet as an athlete. The same principles of healthy eating that apply to the average woman apply to highly active women. The majority of foods you eat should be as natural and minimally processed as possible. As a general rule, the shorter the list of ingredients in a food product, the better. Refined sugar, fried foods and processed oils should have the smallest place in your diet.
Balance is also important. No single food has all the nutrients you need for optimal health, so it's important to eat a variety of different food types every day. Use these guidelines to ensure your diet has adequate balance.
|Food||Recommended servings per day||What's a serving?|
|Fruits and vegetables||7 to 9; strive for more veggies, about one serving more than fruit.||1/2 cup veggies |
1 cup leafy veggies
1 apple, banana, orange, etc.
1/2 cup berries
|Grains||6 to 8; make most, if not all, of them whole grains.||1 slice bread |
1/2 cup cooked rice or pasta
1 cup breakfast cereal
|Legumes (lentils, soybeans, chickpeas, kidney beans, etc.), nuts, seeds||4 to 5; limit nuts to 1 to 2 servings.||1/2 cup cooked legumes |
1/3 cup nuts
|Dairy||3; opt for those low in saturated fats.||1 cup milk or yogurt |
1 1/2 ounces cheese
|Lean meats, poultry, eggs||1 to 2||3 ounces cooked|
|Fish||3 to 6 per week||3 ounces cooked|
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, mypyramid.gov