Food is fuel and for athletes this concept is extremely important. Whether you take part in sports recreationally or you’re a weekend warrior, proper nutrition is crucial to success.
“Eating a balanced amount of carbohydrate, fat and protein is important to play sports at your best” according to this article published on the Dietitians of Canada website.
Athletes often push their bodies past what might be physically possible, and they require foods with high nutritional density for peak performance. It is also important to focus on real foods. According to Olympic athlete Meagan Duhamel who was interviewed by Alternative Food Network on its podcast about sports nutrition, this means having foods with high nutritional content first (things like quinoa or legumes) and not focusing on foods that might fit the bill in terms of caloric or fat intake but have no real nutritional value.
The Vegan Athlete
It has become somewhat of a trend for athletes to adopt a vegan diet and in AFN’s podcast, Duhamel talks about her specific needs as a vegan athlete and someone who is training. She also talks about the use of supplements but stresses real foods first, supplements second.
That being said, there are certain supplements that Duhamel herself takes such as iron and B12. If you are a vegan athlete, it is important to know that the type of iron offered by plant-based foods is less absorbable than the iron that comes from animal-based foods. According to Duhamel, while she eats vitamin C-rich foods with iron-based foods in order to increase absorption of the iron, she also takes an iron supplement. Similarly, people and specifically athletes who are vegan should consider supplementing B12 as this vitamin is not abundant in plant-based foods.
Anti-Inflammatory Foods & Recovery
Training differs everyday for athletes and it’s a good idea to plan recovery snacks and meals. Recovery foods help to reduce dreaded inflammation and can help repair sore and tight muscles. Duhamel says foods with flavonoids – what gives fruits and vegetables their colour – help to reduce inflammation and strengthen collagen in the body. Turmeric (curcumin) is also an excellent anti-inflammatory that can help with pain. Some of Duhamel’s favourite snacks post training are pineapple with hemp seeds and sweet potatoes.
Hydration is a key component in sport. Duhamel recommends water or coconut water. Particularly if you sweat a lot in your sport, Duhamel also recommends adding some salt to water in order to add sodium to help replace lost electrolytes. And, beware of sugary sports drinks filled with artificial sugars.
All content provided or opinions expressed in this blog are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please seek advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare practitioner.