This article was taken from the Flathead Lake Distance Running Camp notebook and the Whitefish High School Cross Country Handbook.
Are you looking for a diet that will give you a competitive edge?
It's not surprising if you are. Many athletes are easily persuaded to change their diets in an effort to seek out every available advantage for better performance.
It's true that good nutrition - along with training, natural ability and skill, as well as motivation - is one of the major factors that influence performance. But, there are no magical foods that will produce superstars.
So concentrate on a training diet that is high in fluids and carbohydrates, moderate in protein, and low in fat to achieve top performance.
Make the Food Groups the basis of your training diet.
Each of the groups includes foods which are good sources of the essential nutrients needed for an active lifestyle. (See chart below)
|Milk, 1 cup||Meat, 2-3 oz.||Fresh, frozen, canned, dried and juiced fruits and vegetables||Cereals, 1 oz.|
|Cheese, 1 oz.||Fish, 2-3 oz.||Breads, 1 slice|
|Yogurt, 1 cup||Poultry, 2-3 oz.||Rolls, 1|
|Cottage Cheese||Eggs, 1||Pasta, 1/2 Cup|
|Ice Cream||Muffins, 1|
|Frozen Yogurt||Pancakes, 1|
These high-carbohydrate foods can be packed and taken along for midday snacks, long workouts, or competitions:
- Breads, bagels and muffins
- Crackers and pretzels
- Fig newtons, oatmeal-raisin cookies
- Fruit juices, or tomato or V-8 Juices
- Fruit yogurt
- Frozen yogurt
- Gorps (pretzels, dried fruit, popcorn, cereals)
- Individual boxes of cereal
- Dried fruit
- Fresh fruit and vegetables
Pre-Competition meals should be:
- eaten 3-4 hours before the event
- high in complex carbohydrate like bread, vegetables, and fruit
- low in simple sugars like soda pop and candy bars
- moderate in protein
- low in fat
- adequate in fluids
All Day Events
Athletes should consider the amount of time between eating and performance when choosing foods at all day events. Suggested pre event foods include the following:
Two to three hours before competition:
- fruit juices
- breads, bagels or muffins with a small amount of cream cheese
Three to four hours before competition:
- fruit juices
- breads, bagels or muffins
- a light spread of butter or one slice of cheese for breads, or a light spread of cream cheese for bagels
- a bowl of cereal with milk or yogurt
Four hours or more before competition:
- sandwich with 2 slices of bread and 2 oz. meat
- fresh fruit
- fresh vegetables
- milk or yogurt
Fluid replacement is critical for the athlete. Dehydration severely limits athletic performance. Heat stroke, organ damage and possibly death may result of fluid is not consumed at regular intervals during exercise. Consult the following guidelines:
- Drink cool, rapidly absorbed fluid before, during and after practice and competition
- Drink about 2.5 cups of fluid two hours before exercising
- Drink about 1.5 cups of fluid 10-15 minutes before exercising
- Drink at least .5 cup fluid every 10-15 minutes during exercise
- Never restrict fluids during exercise
- Weigh yourself before and after practice. For every pound you lose, drink 2 cups of fluid
Water vs. Sports Drinks
Water is always appropriate for fluid replacement; however, for endurance athletes expending large amounts of energy for more than 60-90 minutes, a sports drink may be beneficial.
Day-to-Day Nutrition Guidelines
- Keep food intake regular - don't skip meals.
- Forget the fads - get back to the basics. Select meals from the Food Groups
- Select foods high in complex carbohydrates such as breads, cereals, crackers, and pastas. They are preferred fuel for the exercise muscle.
- Drink fluids regularly - dehydration impairs athletic performance even at minimal levels
- Eat enough to maintain body weight. Avoid drastic weight changes.
Myths and Misinformation
Myth: Consuming large amounts of protein or taking protein supplements will increase muscle size and strength.
Fact: Excess protein will not increase muscle growth and strength. A normal diet will supply you with more than enough protein to build muscles.
Myth: Eating honey, sugar, soda pop, or a candy bar is an excellent way to get quick energy just before practice or competition.
Fact: The energy used in practice or competition comes from the foods eaten days and weeks prior to the event. A diet consisting of the four food groups and adequate training will enable you to perform at your best.
Myth: Athletes require extra vitamins and minerals and should take vitamin pills to supercharge their bodies
Fact: Most vitamins and minerals can't be stored, so it is impossible to supercharge your body. Taking large amounts of supplements can cause serious problems.
Myth: Drinking milk before an event causes cotton mouth and cuts speed and wind
Fact: Cotton mouth appears to be due to emotional stress and fluid loss. Performance does not decline when drinking milk