What Athletes Need To Know About Eating Holistically

My tummy is growling as I paddle to catch another blissful wave. It’s official; I’m addicted to Stand Up Paddle Boarding. I’ve held many SUP yoga poses and ridden hundreds of glorious waves since I wrote “Stand Up Paddle Boarding: Restore Balance and Deepen Your Yoga Practice”. The only thing that can pull me away from the waves is hunger and thirst. As I reluctantly paddle back to the beach I ponder my next snack. It’s definitely time for fuel, but what’s it going to be?

I was a serious athlete long before I studied holistic nutrition. From marathons and rugby, to mountaineering and powder skiing, I loved it all. I was the quintessential “tom boy” and a glutton for challenging my body with sport. 

The only problem was that I was clueless when it came to fueling my body and balancing my fitness regime. The science of sports nutrition was completely beyond me. The result? A major physical and emotional crash. I was only in my early 20s and my body was imbalanced, unhealthy and breaking down.The message was clear: being in good physical shape did not necessarily mean being a healthy person. Power bars and peanut butter just weren’t doing the trick.

Luckily, an epiphany struck and I’ve since become what I would call a “holistic athlete.” After digging myself out of a nasty cycle of athletic destruction, I dove into a realm of whole food sports nutrition and balanced fitness. When a professional SUP racer recently approached me to inquire about what he should be eating I was thrilled. However, I knew that I couldn’t simply tell him what to eat; it’s not as simple as that.

Instead, we began working together to embrace a new sports nutrition philosophy and explore what it means to be a dynamic, nourished, balanced athlete. 

Yet the question remains: what should athletes be eating? Here are some quick tips to get you started on the road to holistic sports nutrition. Integrate these tips into your athletic lifestyle and you’re looking at potentially powerful results.

Listen to your unique body. 

Every athlete is unique and traditional sports nutrition “rules” might not be right for you. The best pre-workout foods, snacks while on the move and post-workout recovery foods all depend on the individual. Different sports and activities also require different kinds of nourishment: a surfer, a yogi and skier all need different combinations of whole foods to thrive. It's worth it to figure out what works best for you. Check out my free guide to start listening.

Fuel your body with quality whole foods.

Athletes demand a lot from their bodies. We’re always pushing ourselves harder, longer, faster. We demand performance and burn fuel exponentially more quickly than the average person. Wouldn’t it make sense for athletes to nourish their bodies with quality fuel.

There are tons of sports nutrition products out there that are packaged, processed and unnatural. Though they may give your body energy, they lack nutrition and may actually be sabotaging your athletic endeavors. Sports nutrition goes beyond proteins, carbs and calories.

For example, a common pre-workout snack for many athletes might be a bagel and peanut butter. Though this offers quick energy, the nutrient density gets a low score. Athletes should to shift their attention to quality whole foods that offer not only calories, proteins and carbs, but also powerful nutrition.

Add a twist of SUP, yoga and balance. 

Yoga and stand up paddle boarding (and the two combined) are intrinsically about balance, something that most athletes could use more of. High intensity athletes like myself often have determined, extreme, addictive-type personalities and an “all or nothing” approach. We put our bodies through a lot, and it’s tempting to overlook the importance of recovery, flexibility, rejuvenation and balanced living. SUP and yoga are catalysts for restoring balance.

Be smart about restricted diets and food sensitivities. 

Many athletes have started to experiment with reducing or eliminating the consumption of foods such as gluten, sugar, dairy, soy and more. Fantastic! Food sensitivities can really throw a monkey wrench into an athlete’s performance. Elimination diets are a great way to explore food sensitivities.

The only problem is that when athletes strictly cut all certain foods out of their diets, they forget that their body will likely go through a period of shock and detoxification that requires rest. It’s also important to remember that restricted foods need to be replaced with new, quality, foods to continue fueling the body adequately. Going gluten free doesn’t mean you should cut all carbohydrates out of your diet; in fact, this can do some serious damage to your body.

So, as I paddle back to the beach and consider my snack options, the first thing I do is spend a few moments listening to my body. What kind of fuel does my body need so that I can get back out in the waves and continue to play as hard as I want? Yes, a cold beer and some chips on the beach might be tempting, but what my body is really craving is my homemade blend of water, lime juice, chia seeds and stevia. This combo is all natural, hydrating and my personal favorite kind of liquid energy. I also know that when my body is ready to celebrate, the healthy margaritas await.

Are you ready to become a holistic athlete? Join me for my upcoming program "Quality Nutrition for Athletes." See you in the waves!

Ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Kelly LeVeque.

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