Nutrition & Health

Eating For Performance

foods that help athletes eating for performance
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The following is a post by Kelly Springer, a registered dietitian/nutritionist and the founder of Kelly’s Choice LLC.

Athletes need more than just determination and challenging practices to perform well. Choosing the right fuel allows athletes to perform at their best. Conflicting nutrition information and countless food and beverage products marketed to athletes can make this an overwhelming task. A one-size fits all approach does not work when it comes to timing and selection of performance foods. Do what works best for your body! Use these tips as a guide for eating for performance so you can maximize your athletic training.

Nutrient-rich foods are your best bet to stay on your game.

Nutrient-rich is a term that gets thrown around a lot in the nutrition world.

A nutrient-rich food is one that is rich in nutrients, particularly vitamins and minerals and low in fat. Micronutrients can reduce the risk of cancer and disease, support immune health, and supply athletes with long-lasting energy. Nutrient-rich foods include lean meat, whole grains, low-fat and fat-free dairy, fruits and vegetables, legumes, and nuts. These foods are often found along the perimeter of the grocery store.

Here are two nutrient-rich shopping lists you can use:

Foods that are heavily processed tend to be higher in fat, sugar, and salt and are not considered nutrient-rich. High consumption of these foods, such as cakes, cookies, potato chips, crackers, candy, and sugar-sweetened beverages may lead to nutrient deficiencies, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. These foods are often found in the center isles of the grocery store and can be tempting due to marketing and advertising from food companies.

Eating meals frequently at fast-food establishments and restaurants can also increase your intake of foods high in fat and sodium.

When you eat is important for your athletic performance.

You may wince at the thought of eating before a game while your teammate chows down on everything and anything in site.

Nerves and fear of gastrointestinal distress are common reasons why athletes chose not to eat before a game. You might perform best on an empty stomach and that is okay.

Keep in mind that your brain and muscles rely on carbohydrates for energy. Try to eat a meal 3-4 hours before a game that is high in carbohydrate (200-300 g.) and lean protein. A tuna fish sandwich on whole-wheat bread, a bagel with peanut butter, or a peanut butter and banana pocket are a few examples. Thirty minutes to 1 hour before a game, chose a 200-300 calorie snack that is high in carbohydrates, moderate in protein, and low in fat. An apple with peanut butter, hummus and pretzels, or trail mix are excellent options. Granola bars are easy to pack in a gym bag, but chose wisely as many resemble candy bars. Look for a short ingredient list, low amounts of sugar, and high protein and fiber.

Here’s a high protein recipe to help you in eating for performance on game day.

For more information, contact us today at KellysChoice.org and follow us on Twitter @KellysChoiceLLC; Facebook KChoiceLLC; Instagram @kellyschoicenutrition; or on YouTube — subscribe at Kelly’s Choice.


Still looking for tips to get the most out of your athletic performance? Our scouts can help you on your way through the recruiting process to play in college. The best way to get started is with a recruiting profile.

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About the author
Andy McKernan

Andy McKernan is the content strategist at NCSA Athletic Recruiting. A content marketer with a background in creative writing, Andy brings several years of experience to NCSA.