Thursday, March 13, 2008

5 tips for optimal athlete diet

Every day is a work in progress. That's good because if I mess up one day I can try again the next. There are a lot of days. Right now I am trying to optimize my diet for training. My diet is already very healthy but I need to make a few tweaks. The most important thing is that I need to make sure I get 30% of my calories from protein.

My biggest challenges in having an optimal diet as I see it are: 1) getting the right caloric ratio while being a vegetarian other than eating fish (sorry little salmon swimming in the sea!) 2) not overeating when I am stressed out or bored. Things working in my favor are: 1) my body has a keen sense of telling me when it needs food 2) I already have gotten out of the habit of eating large meals 3) I love fruits and vegetables 4) I know my workouts suffer when I eat junk.

I am a fan of Gordon Byrn, triathlete and coach, and consulted his website to see if I could get any advice on this stuff. I found a good article where he broke down optimal eating into five "simple" tips. They sound simple at least.

1) Eat real food only.
In other words, if it does not occur in nature, don't eat it. Sounds good. I usually only buy real foods, but do veggie burgers occur in nature? I'd like to think that they would be considered "lightly processed" and thereby acceptable.

2) No refined sugar after 2pm.
Interesting. Challenging but managable. I'll just have to eat all the late night chocolate bars for lunch instead :) jk.

3) No bread, cereal, or pasta.
Whoa. We are bringing out the big guns now. These foods bring me happiness. If I give them up, what will I look forward to in life? It will have to be a gradual cut back with some cheating allowed every once in a while.

4) Only use sports nutrition products for workouts over 2 hours. For shorter workouts, use water and bananas.
I can handle that. I get sick of that stuff when I eat it too much anyway. Gels, bars, and powdered drinks definitely do not occur in nature. Bananas are cheaper too.

5) Eat lean protein at every meal.
That's a good strategy. It just requires some planning to make sure I have the right foods on hand.

What now? I am going to work on these one at a time. It is never a good idea to introduce too many new things at once. #1 is done. #2 and #4 won't be too hard. #3 and #5 will be the hardest. I am going to focus this week on #5 and see how I do.

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