Early Season Fueling

Are you one of “those” who thinks a sports nutrition plan or fueling for your race consists of just downing a big pasta dinner the night before? You may be laughing but you know it’s true for many athletes! Weight lifters, you are not exempt from this either! Unfortunately, fueling your body for performance starts at the beginning of your training regime…even what you eat in the off season has an impact!

Keeping up with a healthy diet not only during the peak of training but all year is essential for successful early season training and optimal performance throughout the season. The reason being is your body stocks up on nutrients, glycogen in the muscles and liver and protein in your muscles and cells to help you perform at your peak. If you’re  A simple way to make sure your body is in good condition for the start of training season is to create an athlete’s plate, like this one pictured.

If you are constantly draining your system and have never replaced what it so desperately needs or refuel with crap…you will get crap results, plain and simple!

This visually simple diet tool looks just like – you guessed it – a plate but divides the dish into separate categories: vegetables/fruits, grains, protein, healthy fats and fluids…lots of them!  Let’s take a look at each food group to see what they provide for a healthy diet.  


Fruits and Vegetables:

One of the key points of your plate is that half of every meal should be made up of fruits and vegetables in the early season or when training is light. Fruits and veggies are chock-full of vitamins, minerals and fiber which are all essential for maintaining a proper weight and keeping your body fit enough to compete!  Adding more fruits and veggies to your diet could also potentially lower your risk of many chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and cancer. 


One third to one fourth of your plate should consist of grains; more depending on your training intensity.  Grains=carbs, which is your body’s primary energy source and the first thing to get depleted during a training session. The most important point to remember when picking which grains to add to your diet is to make sure you are choosing whole grains instead of refined grains (except in pre/post workout snacks). Whole grains are a great source of energy-sustaining carbs, vitamins and minerals which are essential for health maintenance throughout the year.  Try to find rolled oats, plain popcorn, brown rice, whole wheat bread and pasta at the grocery store to add to your diet.   

Protein Foods:

The rest of the plate is made up of protein foods which are important for recovering from workouts and for maintaining and building new muscle for performance and power.  To keep up your body’s muscle mass choose foods with high protein content with as little saturated fat as possible.  Try opting for lean cuts of beef and pork which include the word “loin” as well as 93/7 ground beef, poultry such as chicken (not fried), seafood, eggs, nuts, seeds, soy, beans, Greek yogurt and Fairlife skim milk to your diet.  


Fat is the body’s secondary energy source or long-lasting energy source. Many athletes seem to be stuck in that whole low-fat diet craze and this just shouldn’t be the case. Except in your pre-workout snacks, aim for a teaspoon or two of healthy fat in each of your meals. Great examples include, avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, nut butters and olives.  


I don’t feel I should need to explain myself on this one but what kind of sports dietitian would I be without bringing up the necessity for fluids?! We all know that water makes up a very large percentage of our bodies and is involved in every process that goes on in our bodies. What you may not realize is that just a 2-3% reduction in hydration status equates to as much as a 20% decrease in performance! That means drink up! Drink 16 oz for every pound lost during exercise. Ideally, you should know your sweat rate…we can calculate that for you. Of course good ‘ol H20 is your best bet, except for training lasting an hour or more. In that case, include an electrolyte beverage. This is especially true in the heat of summer. If you are trying to save on calories, you can use Nuun tablets or Gatorade G2. 

Vitamins and minerals:

To finish off your healthy diet make sure you are getting all of the essential vitamins and minerals needed to keep your body in tip top shape! Here is a list of some nutrients, why they are essential and where they can be found in foods: 

B vitamins:  Vitamins that help convert food into energy and keep your nervous system running as well as help produce red blood cells. Found in salmon, brown rice, beans, yogurt.

Iron: A mineral that helps oxygen get transported throughout our entire bodies.  Found in eggs, turkey, oats, chickpeas.

Magnesium: A mineral essential for healthy bones and energy production. Found in quinoa, almonds, spinach, edamame.

Potassium: A mineral that works with sodium within the body to maintain a healthy blood pressure and can reduce hypertension. Found in bananas, milk, chicken, tomatoes, spinach.

Vitamin C– A vitamin that aids tissue repair, helps heal wounds, and aids in iron absorption.  Found in citrus fruits, kiwi, brussel sprouts, green and red peppers.

Vitamin D: A vitamin that aids calcium absorption.  Found in tuna, fortified milk, eggs and the sun so go out and get some sunshine!

Sodium: Many of us think sodium= high blood pressure. This is not generally the case in athletes.  Sodium is a very important mineral and electrolyte that we must ingest to keep our heart beating properly. No heart beat=death and certainly poor performance 🙂 Easy sources of sodium include, salted nuts, olives, salt tablets, electrolyte beverages, dinning out (always high in sodium!) and of course salting your food. 


Need a little extra help with planning your sports nutrition plan?  

Check out this video as Kristen presents on Early Season Fueling OR sign up for our next workshop: Sports Nutrition 101 for Triathletes (really any endurance athlete will benefit)! 


Leave a Reply

You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>