Proper nutrition is an absolute requirement for everyone, but especially for athletes. Unless you feed your body correctly before a workout, you’ll never gain full results from that workout. There are a few key nutritional guidelines that all athletes should follow. In this article we will discuss a few tips that can help to make following those guidelines easier on you.

Here’s a scary one. Have you ever wondered why dogs only live 10 to 15 years while humans live typically 60 years or more? It all lies within our cells and our metabolism where oxygen plays a big part. Oxygen moves energy throughout our cells breaking the carbs we consume into energy. The problem is, oxygen also breaks down our cells in the same process. This is called “oxidation.” But our cells also have a buffer against the oxygen, these are called “antioxidants” and are prevalent in fruits and veggies.

Dogs have faster metabolisms than humans, which breaks down energy quicker and pumps much more oxygen into the cells. The cells die faster because of oxidation. Dogs also don’t or can’t eat many fruits and veggies, which carry those all important antioxidants.

While humans have slower metabolisms, you can actually speed yours up almost to the speed of a dog’s, simply by eating pure sugar, which the body converts to energy almost immediately. Pure sugar is a high energy carb. Cells turn the sugar into energy, but harm the cells in the process. Cells take time to grow back and they don’t grow back indefinitely! So if you want to live a longer life, eat lots of fruits and veggies and keep away from the pure sugar!

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Oprah Winfrey used the phrase “clean eating” in her book Oprah’s Kitchen. It’s helpful to think of clean eating as a good way to approach food. Simple preparations, lighter salad dressings, using less oils and fats (though still a bit for flavor!), and keeping things as fresh as possible – all these ideas contribute to her way of clean eating. Oprah loved her fried chicken – and presents a clean way of cooking it in her book. The bottom line is, if you have a choice between fancy and heavy vs. simple and fresh, go with the latter and your scale will thank you, no matter what food you’re eating.

Be aware of what chemicals are in your food. This is generally why it’s best to stick to natural food like natural produce and fresh proteins and natural grain options. You should avoid these like you would anything else hazardous because they can slow down your metabolic rate and harm your diet.

Try to eat more white meat in your diet everyday. Most protein comes from animal fat and this kind provides the least amount versus red meat. You can find tasty white meat in turkey, chicken and even pork. Add these to items such as sandwiches, salads, stews, soups, etc; the possibilities are endless.

Make sure to have a light snack or meal with protein before beginning a workout. Protein is the body needs to repair damage and build new tissue each time you exercise. Protein will keep your body from feeling more worn down than it needs to, and will help protect the leaner body you’re building.

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Try buying your fruits and vegetables at a farmer’s market near you. Not only do locally-grown foods have a minimal impact on the environment, but they are also better for you, since small farms generally use less harmful chemicals. It’s fun to walk around and sample all the delicious fruits and vegetables. Converse with the farmers to ensure you know exactly where and how the food was produced.

Make sure that your food choices really are healthy and nutritious. It’s easy to assume that you are eating a healthy diet when you aren’t. Many foods are advertised as being healthy choices, but are actually no better than the unhealthy alternatives. Be sure to do your research to find out which foods really are good for you.

For best nutrition, be sure to choose fats wisely. Butter was once thought to be the enemy due to the high amount of saturated fat. However, margarine has been found to be high in trans fats, which are unhealthy for the heart. Best would be to limit your fats as much as possible; second best would be one of the “Smart Balance” non-trans-fat type margarine’s, and third best would be to use real butter, but very sparingly.

To stay healthy while dieting, choose low calorie but nutrient rich foods. Grapefruit, asparagus, and cantaloupe contain very few calories, but provide your body with many essential vitamins. You should also look for low calorie foods that are high in protein, such as salmon and kidney beans. These will give you the energy you need to get through the day.

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To get great nutrition every day, eat a large bowl of oatmeal or granola for breakfast. Have a big salad or a sandwich on whole grain bread with lots of veggies for lunch. Snack abundantly on fresh fruits and veggies. Have only one serving of whatever you are preparing or serving for dinner, and avoid snacking after dinner. This balanced approach will provide good nutrition and weight control.

Raisins and other dry fruits make for a great addition to hot cereals. Keep a box or two around so you can always take advantage of the vitamins they pack. Simply sprinkle them into your oatmeal, grits, cream of wheat or any hot cereal after you’ve cooked it. They will quickly absorb moisture and release part of their flavor right into your bowl.

In this article we have discussed some tips that can make it easier for athletes to maintain a nutritionally sound diet. Proper nutrition is an essential part of any fitness program and without it, you will never see the results you’re hoping for. Keep these tips in mind, and follow them daily for optimal results from your fitness routine.