4 Healthy Diet Tricks We Can Learn From the Olympians
It’s hard to watch the Olympic games without becoming swept up in the excitement and inspired by the athlete’s dedication. If all that good energy gets you thinking about upping your fitness routine, here’s a new take: instead of adding mileage to your current run, or tacking on an extra day at the gym, focus on improving your nutrition. Olympic athletes take their diet very seriously, and it shows in their performance.
1. Hydrate More Than You Think You Need To
Keeping hydrated is vital to good health, and when you’re pulling out all the stops for your sport – especially in summer – it’s more important than ever. The old adage is true: don’t wait until you’re thirsty to hydrate. According to the American Council on Exercise, Olympic athletes consume half their body weight in water, and use a sports drink to replenish electrolytes. While you may not need quite as much, keeping up with hydration will help to cleanse your body and improve your performance.
So how much is enough? Let the color of your urine be an indicator; light or clear urine means you’re well hydrated; yellow or darker indicates you need to reach for the water a bit more often.
2. Never Try to Run on Empty
It’s tempting to rush out for your morning workout without stopping for breakfast, but after many hours of fasting overnight, your blood sugar is low. Trying to fuel a workout off that is likely to leave you sluggish, irritable, and not at your best. Even if you’re not a morning eater, find a light but carb-rich snack you can down before you go – a whole grain bagel, toast, or crackers. Enjoy a more balanced breakfast, with some form of protein, post workout.
3. Don’t Ignore The Importance of a Colorful Plate
Good nutrition goes beyond pre- and post-workout; what you eat throughout the day plays an important role in athletic performance and recovery. But unlike Olympians, most busy people don’t take the time to plan and monitor what they eat. An easy way to make sure you’re getting a range of nutrients: eat a colorful diet. Beth Duryea, with the Specialized-Lululemon women’s cycling team, encourages riders to eat a colorful array of fruits and vegetables to ensure a diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. You can do the same: splash your plate with color using crimson goji berries, dark green vegetables, rainbow carrots, purple blueberries.
4. Don’t Deprive Yourself — Earn It!
Highly in tune to their athletic performance, most athletes know which foods keep them at their best, and which leave them sluggish and struggling. With their eyes on an Olympic prize, most athletes are willing to omit the potentially detrimental foods from their diet. You probably also have a good idea how a food or an indulgence affects the following workout: a Friday night pizza and beer fest might lead to an abbreviated Saturday morning run, or a fast-food workday lunch leaves you straining in your evening spinning class.
Omitting nutritionally empty, or problematic foods, from your diet is beneficial, especially if you don’t miss the items. But imposing an all-out ban on your favorite items can backfire, leading to a guilty over-indulgence, or worse, a complete dismissal of your good intentions. Instead of forbidding your faves, allow treats on occasion, timed such that it won’t derail a workout.
While you may not earn a gold medal, the improved health and higher energy that comes with a healthy diet is prize enough for a lifetime.
Debbie Swanson is a freelance writer, published in numerous national and local outlets. An avid vegetarian, animal lover and reader, she loves learning about healthy eating and finding natural cures for everyday ailments.