We know that nutrition plays an important role in moving us towards our goals as an athlete. A consistent message that we like to share with our athletes is that there really is a key formula that everyone needs to know when it comes to fuelling for performance at meal and snack times. That formula is:
- Slow-release carbohydrates
- Healthy fats
These are the fundamental building blocks of energy, stamina, power, strength, and general wellbeing. So now that we know what the nutritional pillars are that athletes should incorporate into their diet, what some examples of foods that fall within these major categories? Let’s take this concept down to a practical, everyday level…
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a weekend warrior, here are 17 staples every athlete should have in their fridge and pantry.
- 4 bean mix: Find these gems in the tinned veggies section of your supermarket. Not only do they contain protein, beans and legumes are full of fibre for gut health. Add to your salads, or mix into mince-based dishes such as bolognese or tacos. Protein should be a consistent element at every meal and snack, so utilising legumes really helps to introduce more variety to the diet.
- Eggs: Extremely versatile, easy and cheap! A great ingredient to boost the protein content of your breakfast or lunch. Omelettes, frittatas, egg muffins, in a salad, or even hardboiled as a snack…the options are endless!
- Tinned tuna: Little to no preparation needed for this excellent lunchtime option when busy or on the go. Pop on top of a salad, in a sandwich, or mix into your pasta dish.
- Plain natural yoghurt: Pouches or tubs are great for on the go and make an excellent base for a breakfast or snack. Add into smoothies too for an extra protein hit.
Slow Release Carbohydrates
- Oats: Oatmeal is a fantastic breakfast option for lasting energy throughout the day. Try adding a couple of spoons of oats to your smoothie, or add to your healthy muffins and muesli slices.
- Brown rice: Stir-fries, curries, salads, or simply a healthy wholegrain side…you know the drill! Boil yourself or try the microwaveable pouches or cups when in a pinch.
- Quinoa: Another great wholegrain to add into the mix with a slightly sweet and nutty flavour. Use like you would with rice. If cooking quinoa at home yourself, don’t forget to rinse it first.
- Wholegrain bread or wraps: Not only delicious, a wholegrain bread or wrap can lead to all sorts of healthy combinations and creations when paired with the protein, colour, and healthy fats. When choosing breads and wraps, opt for wholemeal when possible, and look for visible grains and seeds!
- Potato and sweet potato: Chop up and roast at the start of the week, and keep in the fridge to throw into your breakfast, lunch, or dinner. We love ingredient prepping, and this is fantastic ingredient to do so with.
- Wholemeal pasta: Make your pasta a better meal by pairing with protein and healthy fats, as well as colour. Examples include bolognese with grated or pureed veg (the kids will never know!), or chicken pesto pasta.
- Mixed salad leaves. Variety is key for getting a greater spectrum of nutrients!
- Fresh or frozen veggies. Choose either, or both. Whatever best suits your lifestyle. For optimising general wellbeing, it is recommended to eat 30 plants per week; so, mix it up! Try something new each week.
- Fresh or frozen fruits. Fibre and vitamin-packed, fresh or frozen fruits are an easy and versatile option that pair well with smoothies, oatmeal, chia puddings, and yoghurt.
- Nuts and seeds: Sprinkle on yoghurt or oatmeal, blend in a smoothie, add to salads, or enjoy as a snack on their own.
- Extra virgin olive oil: Extra virgin olive oil is the least processed type of olive oil (yes, there are a few different types!). As such, extra virgin olive oil retains more of its vitamin and antioxidant content. Drizzle a small amount on pretty much any lunch or dinner for a dose of flavour and a hit of nutrition. And yes, you can cook and roast with olive oil 😉
- Avocado: Another versatile ingredient that goes well in smoothies, salads, in sandwiches or wraps, or as a small side on your plate.
- Oily fish (e.g. salmon, sardines): Rich in omega-3 fatty acids for general health and wellbeing, as well as for lubricating the joints. Incorporating fresh fish is great, but tinned varieties are also a good option – just make sure to choose the options in spring water or extra virgin olive oil.