What should an athlete eat? This is a question I get a lot, and it’s not specific to professional athletes. If you’re doing a lot of training and exercising most days of the week, your diet should look a lot different to someone who is more sedentary.
It can be very varied, as I always tailor meal plans to individuals depending on their needs, how much time they have, their food preferences, age, gender and their activity levels and exercise goals. However, below is a basic guide and some information on what a day’s food intake should look like for an active individual who doesn’t have any food intolerances or allergies.
Before an early morning work out session do I need to be eating something?
If you are a male and you are exercising for 60 minutes or less you don’t have to eat.
However, if you are doing some really high intensity exercise in the morning (a HIIT class or an intense interval running/bike session), research shows having a small snack before these sessions really helps you perform at your best.
That said, if you are hungry when you wake or don’t like working out on an empty stomach, then please eat regardless of how intense you’ll be exercising.
A great morning workout snack is half a banana.
If you are a female, you need to eat before all exercise sessions in the morning.
The reasoning behind this is complex, so if you want some more detailed information on this please come and see me. But in short, females should never train fasted!
This is very bad for our oestrogen and progesterone levels which results in hormonal imbalances, and makes out cortisol levels skyrocket. This can promote weight gain, negatively effects our digestion, good gut bacteria levels, and promotes excess muscle break down.
If you are a female please eat before any workout! A simple thing to have is half an apple or half a banana and a heaped tablespoon of raw almond butter. This is all you need to counter the above negative effects.
After my morning workout, when should I eat next?
Males and females should both be eating within 30 minutes of finishing any workout!
Males have a longer recovery window for protein synthesis (muscle rebuilding/repair) than females do, however both males and females need to eat within 30 minutes of finishing all exercise/training sessions to support their immune system, lower their cortisol levels and support optimal digestion of nutrients for the rest of the day.
Again, for more detailed information on this come and see me, I love explaining why timing food correctly around exercise is so important for your sports performance, recovery, energy levels, immune function, weight management and digestion.
Some examples of breakfast ideas to have within 30 minutes of finishing a morning workout are:
- Apple and cinnamon overnight oats – see recipe below
- A protein smoothie – see below as well
- 2 eggs done any way you like with a slice of good quality sourdough toast, spread with avocado, goat’s cheese and topped with cooked mushrooms and wilted greens
Morning and afternoon tea:
If you are hungry, please eat a snack at either morning tea and or afternoon tea. Learning to listen to your hunger signals is key here! Check in with your body – are you actually hungry, or are you really just thirsty, bored or stressed?
If you are actually hungry, please eat, this helps you avoid overeating later in the day and helps stabilise your blood sugar and energy levels.
Some basic snack suggestions are:
- A piece of fruit with a small handful mixed nuts and seeds
- A True protein bar
- 5-6 Carmen’s seeded crackers with some SSS hummus (available at Woolies)
Lunch is a main meal, please eat a main meal not a snack here! For example:
- 1 – 1½ cups of quinoa salad with a palm sized serving of leftover meat or a can of salmon in extra virgin olive oil
- A slice of baked frittata – make sure it’s packed with lots of colourful veggies
- Quick simple buddha style bowl – see recipe below
- Beef, chicken or organic tempeh and veggie stir-fry serve with ½ – ¾ of a cup of cooked quinoa, black rice or brown rice
- 150g fillet of salmon with ½ – ¾ of a cup of mashed sweet potato and some stir-fried greens – asparagus, broccolini, green beans and bok choy
- 1 – 1 ½ cups of veggie lentil dahl serve with ½ – ¾ of a cup of cauliflower rice, quinoa or coloured rice
This is a very basic guide of what to eat in a day, if you would like some more targeted advice and a complete 2-week meal plan that is tailored to your needs and provides you with a range of recipes and brand options, then please feel free to book in and see me. I do lots of zoom appointments so you can easily see me from the comfort of your own home in these crazy times!
Apple and cinnamon overnights:
- ½ a cup of traditional rolled oats
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
- ½ a large apple diced (leave skin on)
- ½ a cup of raw almond milk (Nutty Bruce is a good brand)
- 2 teaspoons of pure maple syrup
- ½ – ¾ of a cup of plain Greek yoghurt
- 1-2 heaped tablespoon of ground flaxseed
- Mix all ingredient together in a jar or container and keep in the fridge overnight
- Have the next day topped with fresh berries and chopped almonds or raw almond butter
- Last in the fridge for 5 days
- Enjoy 🙂
- At least 30g of raw natural protein powder
- 1 cup of raw almond milk or coconut water
- ½ – ¾ of a cup of frozen mixed berries
- ½ a frozen banana
- 1 tablespoon of traditional rolled oats or plain Greek yoghurt
- 1 tablespoon of raw nut butter (almond or peanut)
- 1 teaspoon of raw hemp seeds or chia seeds
- Blend all ingredients and drink
- ½ a cup of cooked brown or black rice (you can make rice in advance and freeze in portion sizes)
- 3 tablespoons of well rinsed legumes (dress legumes in EVOO, salt & pepper)
- 3-4 different veggies (cooked or raw)
- ¾ of a palm sized serving of meat, fish or organic tempeh or 2 boiled eggs
- Cook/reheat/prep everything, throw it in a bowl, and eat!