This is the first article in a four-part series on eating to perform while balancing life and training demands. The information provided here is from the Norwegian organization “Sunn Jenteidrett,” which published the “Eat Smart” cookbook and resource guide on nutrition and training. Sunn Jenteidrett is dedicated to increase the awareness about nutrition and performance among young athletes, and is a joint effort of the Norwegian Ski Association, Norwegian Orienteering Association and Norwegian Track and Field Association, backed by the Olympics Development Center.
Eat at least four meals per day. Never go more than three to four hours between eating. Fill in with snacks to avoid going on empty and maintain steady energy throughout the day. All main meals should consist of carbohydrates, proteins and fats, all of which supply energy to the body.
A quick run-down of some important food groups here:
Carbohydrates – the most important energy source for athletes. In order to get enough carbs, start the day with oatmeal, thick slices of bread, or cereals. Crackers and crisp breads are lighter and thinner, and supply less carbs.
Choose whole grains – pick cereals and breads that are high in whole grains and low in sugar. It’s easy: look for whole grain up high and added sugars low on the ingredients list. Whole grains keep you full longer, keeps your blood sugar levels more even, and contain more vitamins and minerals than refined grains.
Proteins – Try to include at least one source of protein with your breakfast. Toast with just jam and a glass of juice contain no significant protein sources. If you add a glass of milk, make your oatmeal with milk (or pour milk over it), or eat your toast with some ham or cheese, you’ve significantly improved this meal.
Calcium – Crucial for strong bones! Milk and dairy products are the most important sources of this mineral. Three servings of dairy product per day will cover your recommended daily intake for calcium. One serving is a piece of bread with cheese, a small container of yogurt (4 oz.), or a glass of milk (8 oz.). Additionally, milk and dairy contribute other important nutrients and minerals.
Fruits and vegetables – “Five a day” is still a good rule of thumb. Try to eat two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables per day, and more is a bonus! Make sure you have fruit and/or vegetables at every meal, including breakfast. Drink a glass of juice, or use sliced veggies as garnish for sandwiches. Add fruit or berries to your oatmeal or cereal. Not only is this healthy, but it contributes to variation and adds color to your morning routine.
So how do you turn all of these good intentions into action?
The number-one rule for getting healthy food onto the table is having the right stuff on hand. Make sure your kitchen is stocked with the basics.
Dry stuff: All-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, oatmeal, cereals, sugar, pasta, rice and noodles, sauce and soup mix, dry yeast, taco shells, flour tortillas, nuts and raisins, salt and pepper, as well as spices like thyme, basil, oregano, cinnamon
Cans, jars and bottles: Pasta sauce, canned tomatoes and tomato paste, corn, beans, olive oil and canola oil, Tabasco sauce, sweet chili sauce, soy sauce, ketchup, honey, beef/chicken/vegetable broth
In the freezer: bake-off rolls and bread, pita bread, vegetables, ground beef, frozen berries
In the fridge: Ham/lean lunch meat, bacon, milk, low fat sour cream, plain yogurt, eggs, cheese, butter, sundried tomatoes, pesto, orange juice/apple juice
Vegetables: Onions, leeks, carrots, broccoli, lettuce, cucumber, bell pepper, tomatoes, ginger and garlic
Get started: Building a great breakfast
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day – it’s been said before and it will be said again. Do not skip breakfast, no matter how much of a hurry you’re in. It’s your first chance to fill your fuel tanks with energy for training, school, work and other activities. Even if you have an early workout, make sure you ingest something before heading out the door. If you have trouble eating anything substantial right before a morning workout, try oatmeal with extra water – letting it boil a little longer to absorb the extra liquid makes the grains easier to digest.
Here are some options:
- Oatmeal in any way you like it – add chopped apples, sprinkles of cinnamon, globs of jam or jelly, or raisins and chopped almonds… Be inspired!
- Cereal and yogurt – check your cereal: Many store-bought cereals are high in added sugars. Look for varieties with little added sugar, and sweeten things up by adding fresh or dried fruit, a little honey, or vanilla yogurt (instead of plain).
Recipe: Christine Helle’s Muesli (Helle is a nutritionist with the Olympic Development Center in Oslo, Norway)
Make the muesli the night before, and add fresh fruit and berries when you eat it the next morning. This muesli is great for those who struggle to eat on race mornings, and it also makes a good snack to bring to the race venue for some extra energy before the event – or even as recovery fuel after a race or a hard workout. Use whatever fruit you have – the varieties listed below are suggestions.
What you need:
- 1 Cup mixed grains (rye, spelt, wheat)
- 1 Cup oatmeal (not quick oats)
- ¾ -1 Cup apple juice
- 2 Cups yogurt (honey or fruit sweetened)
- 1 apple, shredded
- 1 banana, sliced
- ¾ Cups fresh berries or fresh cut-up fruit
- ¾ C milk
What you do:
- The night before – mix grains, oats, juice and yogurt in a large bowl. Add a shredded apple (or a handful of raisins and chopped almonds). Mix well, and set in the fridge until the next morning
- In the morning – Slice the banana and dice other fruits if you choose to use them. Carefully fold the fruit and milk into the fridge mixture. This recipe makes four servings.
Inge is FasterSkier's international reporter, born and bred in Norway. A cross-country ski racer and mountain runner, she also dabbles on two wheels in the offseason. If it's steep and long, she loves it. Follow her on Twitter: @IngeScheve.