I am a huge fan of K.I.S.S., not the band, but the saying “Keep It Simple Stupid.” But, the books I’ve read regarding nutrition for athletes, endurance or otherwise, talk a lot about what type of nutrients are needed and when. Reading these books was a lot like reading science experiment written by someone who had forgotten what English was, replaced with technical garble.
So, I was overwhelmed with the thought of getting the exact amount of protein for my body at just the right time. Let’s not forget that I am an overworked Analyst by day and I don’t have much time to spend buying food, cooking, and eating in addition to the job, triathlon training, and rest of life. As much as I tried to make it work, it was just too complicated for this triathlete.
I even tried the paleo diet for a while and have to say that it made life a lot worse. While it was simple, the complexity in carrying out the diet while at work and with busy weekends just couldn’t work for me. The paleo diet eliminated some foods that were okay by some diets and were convenient for busy people like me.
So, is there such a thing as simple nutrition for athletes? If we strip away the metabolic typing, the protein and carb calculators, and even the calorie counting bank recording calories in versus out, what is left? In my opinion, there is a lot left that can be considered simple nutrition for athletes. Let’s take a look, but keep in mind that if you are going to get technical on me, please don’t send me hate mail.
This is what simple nutrition for athletes is in my mind:
- Avoid the sweets: Sure you can have a little cake and ice cream at the neighbor’s kids birthday, but don’t have a small amount of sweets more than once a week.
- Avoid processed foods: Processed foods are anything that doesn’t resemble its natural counterpart any longer, such as anything made with flour, those frozen chicken nuggets, and anything that comes out of a drive through window. This is the paleo influence on my simple nutrition for athletes. Don’t eat white breads, processed sausage, cakes, or pastries.
- Eat lean protein: Protein is what helps build muscles and aids in recovery post-workout. Having a small amount of protein with every meal and a little before and after workout will help you recover and build muscles. Eggs, chicken breasts, lean pork, salmon, and buffalo burgers are great choices.
- Consume fresh vegetables and fruits: Salads, greens, citrus, and berries are a great source of fiber and provide much needed energy for your workouts.
- Cook with the intention of creating leftovers: Cooking four chicken breasts even though you are only going to eat two gives you two extra to eat during the rest of the week. Package up some salad mix into tupperware and toss on some cheese and other veggies while making a salad for your weekend lunch. Consume a salad right after a workout to help recover as well.
So, simple nutrition for athletes broken down to five rules. It is not all inclusive list, but is a great place to start when getting a handle on what you eat. You might be surprised just how simple this can be while achieving race weight and feeling great about yourself. There is such a thing as simple nutrition for athletes after all.