Feel like you’re hearing all kinds of nutrition information everywhere? I sure do! It’s on the news, all over Facebook feeds, in magazines, on Instagram… It can be hard to decipher what is real, and what is not! So, I am here to give you science based professional advice that IS real! Nutrition is a tool for you to use. Food can affect your performance positively, or negatively. Let’s work on putting food in to fuel us the right way.
We’ve talked a bit about the importance of not going on empty to practices and games, as well as how to recover with food afterward. So, what about the “other foods” that we are craving (sweets, candy, chips..etc). Would these hinder our performance? The answer. Most likely. Especially if you have them before your matches or practice. The type of fuel you put into your body is definitely important. Let’s talk about caving for sugary and salty foods could set your vehicle on the curb.
First offender, sugars and sweets. High sugar foods/drinks, especially in soda and candy, do not provide long lasting energy. They do give you a spike in energy, however, this spike leads to an energy crash. The highly processed sugars cause a greater the release of insulin from your pancreas. Insulin’s role is to bring blood sugar levels to normal. However, when blood sugars jump high (after you eat high sugary processed foods), your body them pumps out massive amounts of insulin into your bloodstream. This causes an overshoot, and blood-sugar levels bottom out (energy crash). After the crash, you then again crave this sugary food.
Foods that lie in the highly processed high sugar category include candies, sodas or other high sugary foods. These should definitely be limited before exercise. Unrefined sugars in fruits and vegetables and other whole foods should make up the bulk of carbs you eat every day. These guys have fiber, water and vitamins. It’s almost impossible to eat too many of them.
Next offender, salty foods, who are also typically high in fat. For example, French fries, chips, burgers, creamy sauces or grilled cheeses. When we have a high fat meal before practice, our body is working overtime to digest these foods. This diverts the energy your body needs for peak performance towards concentration on trying to digest the food. This causes a sluggish and tired feeling. Additionally, your stomach may not feel so hot during the middle of a match after eating fatty foods. These high fat foods typically are high in salt as well. Salt is needed in our diet, but the amount in these foods is too much for our bodies. This can cause a high risk of dehydration before exercise.
What to go for if craving…
If you’re going to go for it, at least wait for after a big game or practice! If you fight cravings forever, you’ll eventually give in, and then some. Allowing yourself the occasional treat is okay once in a while. If you are hungry, have a healthy meal first. Then, see if you still want that item. If you do, have an appropriate amount. But if this craving for high sugar/high fat food is before practice or a game, ideally you should skip this if you want a happy body. Stick to the healthy pre-post fuel ideas we have talked about. If you need to fight a craving and want something healthier, here are some options.
Here are some backup options for….
10 Healthier Sweets
- Banana skinnies: thin slices of frozen banana topped with cocoa powder
- DIY frozen yogurt
- Fruit slushy : blend fruit, ice and sparkling water
- Baked sweet potato wedges
- Dark chocolate
- Plain frozen yogurt with fresh fruit
- Sliced apple with cinnamon
- Frozen grapes
- Chocolate flavored rice cakes
10 Healthier Salty Foods
- Air popped popcorn
- Roasted edamame
- Mini salty rice cakes
- Roasted garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
- Sunflower seeds
- Hummus with carrots
- Dill pickle
- Rolled up turkey breast with Swiss cheese
I hope these help you with those cravings! Take home, don’t forever restrict foods. However, definitely avoid the foods that will hinder performance. Try some healthier options for the happiest and most athletic body you can get.
Eat power food, be powerful. If you need any questions answered, or would like any one on one help, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lindsay Wexler, RDN, CSSD, LD
Clinical Dietitian, Board Certified Sports Dietitian