Nutrition for the Recreational Athlete

Girl with boxing gloves
Sports are what recreational athletes choose to do in their leisure time, however, combined with juggling the responsibilities of work and family, practicing simple nutritional principles can often be overlooked. Here are some quick and simple nutrition tips that will help you maximize your workouts and overall health while trying to lead a balanced lifestyle:
  1. Carbohydrates are Your Best Energy Fuel

    Your body runs on carbohydrates and a lack of carbohydrate-rich foods in your daily diet will leave you feeling tired and easily fatigued when working out. Your colleagues and family members will also notice that you are cranky and irritable.

    Good sources of carbohydrates include rice, breads, cereals, fruit, starchy vegetables, legumes, flavoured milks, yogurts and sugary foods.

  2. It’s Simple – Eat Before Your Workout

    The amount of carbohydrates you have on reserve is reflective of your eating and exercise habits from the days prior. The meals and/or snacks that you eat right before a workout provide additional energy and will help prevent hunger or fatigue during your workout.

    Larger meals should be consumed three to four hours before training to ensure that the food that you eat is digested and you are ready to perform. Sometimes you may not have a lot of time to eat a meal, so eat a large snack one to two hours before training to get the energy that you need.

    Rice is delicious and versatile and is a slow burning complex carbohydrate that provides long lasting energy. The rice recipes below will help you add carbohydrates to your pre-workout meals:

With water, milk or vegetable or fruit juice.

  1. Eat More Vegetables Throughout Your Day

    Add vegetables to both rice meals and snacks. The health benefits of eating more vegetables and fruit are plenty and the addition of rice ensures that you are well-fuelled and ready for action!

    Pairing vegetables and fruits with rice dishes is a winning combination. Nutrition experts estimate that, “over time, the consumption of five servings or more of a variety of vegetables and fruits could, by itself, decrease overall cancer incidence by at least 20% and decrease the risk of heart disease by about 15%.” 1
    Rice-based dishes such as the Fiesta Layered Salad includes the orangey/red veggies that you want to eat daily. Arroz con Pollo, meaning “rice with chicken” is made with tomatoes, red peppers and green peas. This twist on a Latin American classic contains the colorful veggies that you want to include in your daily diet for optimal health.

  2. Include OMEGA-3 Fats Daily

    Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for heart health, normal growth and development and overall well-being. Research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids may reduce inflammation, which could help to reduce recovery time after a tough training session or competition.

    The most readily available and beneficial forms of omega-3 fats are those found in the oil of fatty fish such as salmon, white tuna, mackerel, rainbow trout, herring, halibut and sardines – all of which complement the flavour of rice. The Chilean Fish Chowder, Salmon and Rice Stuffed Pastry with Dill Sauce and Salmon Rice Sushi are examples of recipes that are a great post-workout meal and provide a hefty dose of omega-three fats and the nutrients found in rice and vegetables.

  3. Practice Post-Workout Nutrition

    To maximize muscle energy stores, carbohydrate-rich foods, like rice, should be consumed immediately after exercising. When carbohydrates are combined with protein the muscle energy storage is enhanced. By choosing sweet, rice-based snacks 15 to 30 minutes post-workout, you will kick-start the muscle recovery process.

    Eating a meal within two to three hours of your workout that combines vegetables or fruit with rice and protein ensures that you will be topped up and ready to go. Rice and Beef Burritos are great for those who need a portable and worry-free post-workout meal at work. The combination of rice, fresh vegetables, black beans and lean ground beef will give your body the fuel it needs for maximum recovery.

    Use the examples below to plan your post workout rice meals:

Include fluids with a sweet, rice-based snack to satisfy your post workout fluid and carbohydrate needs for optimal recovery.

Written by the team of Registered Dietitians and Sport Nutrition Specialists of Peak Performance www.peakperformance.ca.
1Law, MR and Morris, JK. By how much does fruit and vegetable consumption reduce the risk of ischaemic heart disease?

European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1998. 52:549-556.