Very few things can impact training results as much as nutrition. The old adage “get out what you put in” is right on the money, yet too many athletes overlook this area. Rather than build a well-rounded diet, athletes are looking for the shortcut to gains, aka supplements. Sports and nutritional supplements are a multibillion-dollar industry, but the benefits are misunderstood. This is going to sound crazy, but supplements are supposed to be used to supplement a base diet. I know, hard to believe.
If you’re a high school or college athlete currently in your offseason and busting your butt in the weight room, make sure you’re putting in the proper fuel for your body to recover. The following items should be on every athlete’s shopping list and staples in their diet. At the bottom, I include five supplements that are worth the investment, but should be used to complement your diet.
Make this your main beverage, and no, the water in soda, beer, etc. doesn’t count.
Easy to grill or cook inside if you don’t have access to one and there are a million different ways to change the taste.
Find a protein supplement that can beat 32 grams of protein with 0g carbs.
If you’re one of the unfortunate souls who can’t eat eggs without vomiting (like myself), it’s hard to find a protein source to replace a few eggs.
This is laziness/efficiency at its best – the little microwave steamer bags of veggies are great and easy to cook; there’s no reason you can’t have a big helping of veggies at every meal with them.
Depending on your budget, you can grill a nice sirloin, get some top round and slice it up for fajitas, or use a crock-pot with a lower quality cut. Almost as many possibilities as chicken.
If you need an energy drink, go with the original. In addition to caffeine, coffee has a laundry list of benefits including antioxidants and even reducing risks for certain types of cancer.
Loaded with Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, salmon packs a lot more than just protein.
85-90% Lean Ground Beef
Less ideal than chicken or fish, but again, budget constraints happen. Go with the leanest you can find of fresh ground beef for burgers, pasta sauce, chili, etc.
Try to get as many colors as possible – blue, red, yellow, orange, purple – because each has its own benefits.
Greek or normal, yogurt is a good source of protein, calcium, and probiotics to help with digestive health.
If you’re looking to gain mass, peanut butter is your best friend. Cheap and loaded with protein and healthy fats, it also makes up half of the greatest workout meal ever (PB&J).
For any carb source, look for multigrain, whole grain, or preferably fiber-enriched.
Great breakfast with low glycemic index carbs, not to mention it’s cheap and easy.
This one is just for variety. Usually leaner than ground beef (and also more expensive), it’s a nice alternative to have, especially if you’re sensitive to red meat.
Again, these are to be used in conjunction with a well-rounded diet, not in place of.
Whey Protein Powder
Use it pre workout if you don’t have anything else, post workout to get fuel to the muscles immediately, right after you wake up to refill after the eight hour fast called sleeping, or right before bed to help with recovery and mass building. Take a lot of protein is the point.
I used to be very skeptical of creatine, but it has passed the test of time and is considered one of the safest supplements available. As a pre workout booster, it’s fantastic.
I have used magnesium for about ten years now and know when I have been skipping it. I take one capsule before bed and feel that I get better rest and recover quicker from workouts. I don’t have much research on the matter, but it has worked for me and it’s pretty cheap.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for countless functions in the body and far too many people aren’t getting enough.
With the stress of training (and athletes’ aversion to complete nutrition), it’s easy to be deficient in one or more areas. A multivitamin can help make sure your body is getting the micronutrients it needs to function properly.
This list isn’t comprehensive, but it’s a good place for young athletes to start. Most people already know all of this – “Yeah, I need more protein” “I probably need to eat more veggies” – but few will act on it. Here’s your resource, use the shopping list to fill your refrigerator and freezer and let your body recover from the training sessions. If you average an hour of training a day, what are you doing the other 23 to make gains? Eat healthy, feel healthy, get stronger, and perform better.
As always, if I can ever help you or your program, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
All the best,
Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES