Nutrition for Athletes - What not to Eat

Nutrition for athletes is about knowing what not to eat.  Photo Source:  jmperformance.co.uk


As an athlete you know that your body is a machine that allows you to compete and enjoy your sport.  You also know that nutrition for athletes is as much about what you don’t eat as what you do eat.  Your body will only perform at optimal levels when fueled with nutritional organic foods.  It's not hard to find nutrition advice out there and often it is contradictory.  Many diets are so restricted they're nearly impossible to keep day in and day out.  A good place to start is avoiding these common nutritional mistakes so you can experience better workouts and faster recover.

1. Vitamin Water and Sports Drinks

Here is a clue, if what you are drinking has a color to it, you probably don’t want it.  Sports drinks and vitamin water are filled with sugar or artificial sweeteners and coloring.  Some sports drinks have as much as 30 grams of sugar per bottle.  Drinks high in sugar can cause rebound hypoglycemia, otherwise known as a sugar crash, and won’t supply the right kind of calories for sustained exercise and recovery.  And artificial sweeteners and coloring…well, might give you cancer or have other long term effects.  High-fructose corn syrup, real sugar, or artificial sweeteners can also promote dangerous fat buildup around your organs. It is wise to stick to water and if you need vitamins or electrolytes take supplements or whole foods that contain what you need. 


Sports drinks and vitamin water can contain high levels of sugar and artificial coloring that can reduce performance and hinder recovery.  Photo Source:  trainingdayfitnessinc.com


2. Fruit Juice

I know what you are thinking, if not a sports drink, how about a big glass of OJ?  Unless you squeeze your own, most fruit drinks have been so processed that all the good stuff is gone and nothing but sugar and artificial coloring remains.  Nutritionists suggest whole fruits instead of the processed juice.  The whole fruit will contain beneficial fiber and minerals that are normally removed in processing and can help you manage portion control. One piece of fruit will have 60-100 good-for-you calories, while that carton of fruit juice you are swigging by the refrigerator can easily give you 300 calories.  


3. Protein Supplements

Nutritionists agree that post-workout the body needs a balanced mix of carbs and protein.  The operative word here is “balanced.”  Many popular protein powders contain too much protein forcing your body to convert the excess into carbs.  In addition, a recent Consumer Reports study found high concentrations of heavy-metal and arsenic in many protein powders including Muscle Milk and EAS Myoplex.  Another problem is that many powders contain whey protein and other animal-based protein that may actually increase inflammation and decrease performance. Generally if you are eating a balanced diet you will have the protein and carbs necessary for training.  This balanced diet can be augmented by whole foods and high quality bars to supplement post-workout nutrition for athletes.


The refining process of grain removes most of its vitamins and fiber, what’s leftover is refined carbohydrates. White rice, many pastas, and white bread are considered refined carb.  Photo Source: fitday.com


4. Processed Complex Carbs

Processed complex carbohydrates like those found in white bread and many types of pasta can cause inflammation and reduce performance.  These foods have a low pH that can contribute to the formation of acid and increased inflammation.  Generally the less processed your food, the better. There is evidence that carbs from raw fruit, quinoa, wild rice and other whole grains and seeds can help reduce inflammation and improve endurance, a quicker recovery, and joint mobility.  


5. Energy Drinks

When thinking about nutrition for athletes this should be a no-brainer, but energy drink makers sponsor so many athletic events that it is probably good to mention this terrible idea.  These drinks contain mostly sugar and caffeine, some three-times the amount of caffeine found in a cup of coffee.  When used properly caffeine is a valuable resource during training and racing, however these drinks also include other supplements and stimulants that have led to overdose and hospital visits.   This is especially true if you are under-trained for the endeavor or have an underlying medical condition.  As an athlete, if you are relying on these types of product for energy, you probably need to overhaul your entire training and nutrition plan.

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