When you’re training for a competition, it’s absolutely essential that you get all the nutrients your body needs for optimal performance. You need these nutrients to help repair muscle tissue from the stress of more frequent intense training. Making sure your body meets specific nutrient demands required from increased physical activity may require supplementing your diet with protein drinks, powders, and performance bars. However, you should also make sure you’re eating a balanced diet with these basic nutrients:

Protein

Protein is essential for repair and growth of the body’s tissues, organs, and muscles. Athletes, especially ones who are training for a competition, need more protein in their diets than people who are less active.

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EAT: Lean meats such as beef, chicken, turkey, and fish. Vegetarians can eat nuts, legumes, and protein rich grains like quinoa. Egg whites are also a great source of protein if you’re not vegan.

Carbohydrates

Carbs are what keep you going and going. They are an essential energy source for athletes training for competition. They are classified in four ways: simple sugars, refined carbs, starches, and fiber.

REMEMBER: Simple sugars like table sugar and refined carbs like pasta and bread are quickly digested and absorbed, making your blood sugar shoot up fast and then drop dramatically, causing you to crash. These aren’t good sustaining energy sources.

EAT: Starches are the better source of carbs, as they are not digested quickly and do not promote fat accumulation as much as simple sugars or refined carbs. Oatmeal, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and brown rice are all excellent starches to eat.

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You also want to make sure you eat fibrous carbs such as lettuce, spinach, asparagus or broccoli in order to slow down the release of insulin and aide the digestive process.

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Fats

Some fats are good- like olive oils and flax oil. Flax oil is an excellent source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids, which actually help in fat loss. Just make sure you avoid saturated fats like butter, cream, margarine, and anything fried.

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BALANCE IT OUT! Make sure you’re following the correct macro-nutrient ratios to get optimal performance: 30% protein, 55% carbs, and 15% fats. However, these will most likely need to be modified according to changes in an athlete’s training. For example, if you’re trying to gain more muscle mass, you might need to add more protein to your diet. Make sure the number of calories you’re getting matches your goals. The basic formula to find your daily calorie intake is between 8-15 calories per pound of bodyweight. Of course, this will vary depending on whether you’re trying to gain muscle or lose body fat.

Finally, stay hydrated! Drink more water. At least a gallon or two per day. This should be obvious. You’re working up a sweat!

The most important thing is to listen to your body and watch as it progresses. Train smart, stay focused, and make sure you’re getting all the nutrition your body needs as you prepare for competition!