Back to all Experts

Whether you’re a dedicated athlete or a casual jogger, you strive to perform your best. How you fuel your body can impact your performance in sports and athletic activities. Let’s dive into 7 ways you can boost your athletic performance by improving how you fuel your body.

1. Make sure you eat enough

Eating enough is crucial for athletes. Food provides the energy your body needs to perform well in sports and physical activities, in addition to keeping your body functioning properly. But it’s not enough to just fuel for your sport. You also need to make sure you have enough fuel left after exercise to use for building strong bones and skin, fighting off illness and recovering from activity.

Eating enough food to match your activity level can be challenging. This can cause what is called low energy availability (LEA). LEA is a sign that your body does not have enough energy left over after exercise to protect and grow your body.

LEA may even cause a female athlete to lose their monthly menstrual cycle. This is called amenorrhea. Female athletes without a menstrual cycle have about 6 times as many stress fractures in their career than those who do have a menstrual cycle. Athletes typically need at least 3 meals and 2-3 snacks daily to prevent LEA. You can meet with a sports dietitian to understand your body’s individualized needs.

2. Choose whole foods often

Choosing whole foods is like picking the best tools for your athletic journey. They provide your body with the energy and nutrients it needs to perform at its peak. Eating whole foods gives your muscles fuel to help you run faster, jump higher and get stronger. Here are some examples of whole-food choices.

  • Choose Greek yogurt for your fruit smoothie instead of protein powder. Greek yogurt has about 20 grams of protein in a single cup.
  • Add a fresh apple and sauteed spinach to your breakfast instead of a “greens” or “reds” powder. These supplements aren’t closely regulated, so they might not have precisely what they claim.
  • Opt for a granola bar and cheese stick instead of a protein bar. Protein bars sometimes contain ingredients that can upset your stomach, like artificial fibers. While they can be handy in emergencies, they shouldn’t be a part of your daily eating pattern.
  • Grill some chicken breasts instead of using collagen powder. Chicken has essential vitamins and minerals, like iron and vitamin B12, that collagen powder doesn’t provide.

3. Don’t skimp on carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are important for physical activity and can seriously boost your performance. They give you more energy for the effort you put in during your activity, compared to fats and proteins. They are also important for keeping your hormone levels, like estrogen and progesterone, in check. These hormones help regulate a female’s menstrual cycle each month and can also influence your bone mass. Carbohydrate foods should make up the biggest part of what you eat as an athlete. It’s been estimated that 45-95% of female athletes aren’t getting the carbohydrates they need for health and performance.

For the rest of the story click here.

To listen to a podcast with The University of Kansas Health System Sports Medicine and Performance Center Sports Perfomance Dietitian Sara Arnold talking about Sports Nutrition click here.