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  • Writer's pictureChuck Johns

Be More Competitive: Food with Maximum Benefits

Getting into sports and an athletic lifestyle can be quite beneficial, but not without a degree of pressure. Despite the age-old mantra that you're only competing with yourself, getting there isn't always so cut and dry and can sometimes require performing well in comparison with others. In this quest, nutrition is an indispensable element that athletes have come to terms with the need for. Athletes have sought to maximize what their bodies are capable of by various means, including coming to rely on supplements. This is sometimes necessary because of the rigors of competition, which may include complicating factors like travel and food availability.

Of course, the range of what they may make use of can be limited by regulations about medication and supplements. Fortunately, a dependence on such supplements need not be crippling, as an athlete can make good, healthy choices to get the nutrition he needs in order to perform to the level that he needs. This "food first" philosophy is one that athletes everywhere have tried and have reaped the benefits of.

There are plenty of ways that it can be applied, and they don't have to be all that difficult.

1. Eat whole foods. Processed foods are generally a bad idea (this includes seemingly harmless things like canned soup!), and you would do well to watch for food that has added sugars. Many recent fad diets have prioritized eating "real" foods that come from the earth, and with good reason. Many who have adopted this philosophy have found that the body processes these foods to the fullest, and the lack of any filler or added chemicals that processed foods typically come with allows the body to thus maximize the nutrient intake when eating them.

This isn't always easy when on the road, as you're away from your own kitchen. It is easier if where you end up has a kitchen, so try to plan whatever travel to include accommodations or AirBnBs and the like with at least a kitchenette, because if you can prepare your own food you have more control over how "cleanly" you eat.

While on the subject of traveling, it might be a good idea to make some food ahead and pack it along with you, so you're not at the mercy of fast food or airport food. You can make full meals, decide on the portion sizes, and pack accordingly. In this decade, with all the food containment and travel gear available, we've never had an easier time doing this. You can even pack along smaller containers with healthy travel snacks that still fit that description -- fruit, nuts, seeds, and so on.

2. Stay hydrated. Always having your water bottle handy isn't just trendy, it's science. (One could actually argue that the science made it popular.) Dehydration is a very real risk of being on the go, and it can lead to headaches and lost concentration. Skip the caffeinated drinks (diet soda is particularly to be avoided, as the artificial sweeteners psyche out your body into producing fat-storing insulin) and energy drinks, and stick with standard water.

However, maintaining body fluid levels can be easier than you think. If you wait until your body tells you you're dehydrated, that's generally not a good idea. Maintaining bodily fluid levels is easiest when you take plenty of fluids beforehand, and keep the fluids close at hand. That's before, during, and after your workout or your game.

3. Watch your intake. While you are not exactly what you eat, it is what will fuel you, so it's as close as it gets.

Whole grain carbs give the body fuel via glucose, which is what makes carbs such a crucial macronutrient. The brain needs these to concentrate, and so a serving of whole grain carbohydrates -- oats, pasta, quinoa, rice -- with each meal should give you enough lift through the day. Don't be seduced by the siren song of "low calories" into eating nutritionally empty foods like rice cakes (which actually have a high glycemic index) -- an English muffin or even some fruit would be a better source of carbs in general.

Protein is the muscle macronutrient, which provides muscles with material and stays in the system longer after we eat, keeping us full. This is a good and sensible way to prevent snacking, and keep your body sustained. A quick and easy way to get a lot of whole grain carbohydrates and protein into your diet is making a sandwich with good amounts of bread and meat. Otherwise, foods like hard boiled eggs, yogurt, baked beans, and canned tuna contain good amounts of protein. Always have some protein with every meal, because it helps fill you up and lower blood sugar levels.

Fruits and vegetables are always good for you, because each packs a variety of vitamins and minerals -- not to mention antioxidants that work wonders for the body. There's also fiber, which, like protein, helps you stay and feel full, preventing less healthy snacking. It also helps that fruits and vegetables tend to be quite affordable and easy to prepare -- and most fruits even come in their own packaging.



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