3 tips for feeding the athlete

by Karen Gaudette

This article was originally published in April 2011

Achieving peak athletic performance calls for conscious eating. Cynthia Lair, faculty member at Bastyr University, author of “Feeding the Young Athlete,” and host of cookusinterruptus.com, spoke with us about one aspect of priming the body for activity: Knowing what to eat when.

apples and almond butter

1. Aim for a high carbohydrate-to-protein ratio before and after workouts, games or events

Italian, Indian, Chinese, Ethiopian, Japanese and other cuisines with a high ratio of carbohydrates (rice, vegetables) to protein are a good bet pre-event as they convert to energy quickly, Lair said. Aim to eat two hours before an event so your body has time enough to digest. Post-event, try to snack within the first 30 minutes to rapidly reload your body’s energy supply, again with protein and carbohydrates. Think appetizers, Lair says: apples and almond butter, crackers and cheese, sushi.


2. Early morning event? Reach for a light, healthy snack

Lair suggests a substantial meal the night before, then, an easy-to-digest snack at least an hour (ideally, two) before the event, such as bread, oatmeal, fruit or yogurt. Packed with healthy carbohydrates and protein, a fruit-and-yogurt smoothie is one good option.

deli salad

3. Power eating: It’s in the bowl

Build yourself a bowl for a meal rich in nutrients to fuel your endeavors. Make the base a whole grain such as brown rice, noodles or pasta. Make the middle a combo of protein and vegetables. Top it with salsa, raita or another garnish. Says Lair, “That’s the perfect meal for an athlete.”

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