Athletes tend to stick to a pretty set list of meals to fuel their bodies. Burritos, oatmeal, peanut butter and jelly, spaghetti and chocolate milk are among the tried and trusted foods athletes rely on.
Opting for the same meals on repeat makes it easier to grocery shop, prepare, consume and improve the gut’s tolerance for these items. While it’s a good practice to reduce decision fatigue and stress around food choices, limiting choices can lead to missing out on nutrients and suffering from food fatigue.
Many athletes shun cereals in favor of heartier grains like oatmeal, but cereal can be a simple source of easy to digest carbohydrates to fuel workouts. Beyond the carbohydrates, cereals are fortified with nutrients athletic bodies need like folate, B vitamins and iron. Grab an option that is low in added sugar and add bananas or berries for natural sweetness.
Whether you make it yourself or grab it from the grocery shelf, this mix of rice, milk and sugar isn’t exactly a health food, but it can be a great pre-workout meal. Athletes who have trouble getting enough calories in before big workouts can benefit from a calorically dense, yet easy to digest meal like rice pudding.
These bundles of masa, which are abundant in the southwest, among other areas, are often overlooked due to seeming rich or unhealthy. Tamales are made with a few, simple ingredients including corn, broth and fillings that range from shredded chicken to beans with salsa and spices. These are a filling, nourishing, heat-and-eat way to fuel for endurance and high-volume training.
Opening a can of soup is an easy way athletes can get nutritious ingredients such as beans, lentils, wild rice and vegetables they might otherwise not consume. Some ingredients such as tomatoes are actually more nutritious when cooked and canned as the process improves the lycopene (a powerful antioxidant for cardiovascular health) content and bioavailability. Athletes who train in the heat or are heavy sweaters benefit from the high sodium as well, but you can also opt for low-sodium versions.
Often seen as an indulgent treat, hot cocoa can actually provide athletes with a warm, soothing recovery beverage. Making the beverage with milk or adding collagen boosts the recovery benefits, while using dark cacao boosts antioxidant activity.
This spread is made from pulverized chickpeas and is a great alternative to nut butter for athletes looking to cut back on calories without sacrificing nutrients. Hummus comes in many varieties, even sweet options, that can add flavor, fiber and heart-healthy fat to your meals and snacks.
You can ferment all kinds of vegetables to make pickled carrots, beets, cucumbers, asparagus and onions. These tangy condiments are great for adding flavor to sandwiches, salads, burgers, and more without adding extra fat or calories. Beyond flavor, they boost nutrition with vitamins A and K, which help with bone health and vision. Research shows athletes might experience fewer cramps from pickle consumption which might be due to a combination of the vinegar and salt.
Next time you’re planning your meals for the week or heading to the grocery store, try branching out of your typical routine; it might just boost your enjoyment of food and your performances.