Nutrition is an essential part of good health, and while that’s obviously true for everyone, it’s crucial for athletes. Food is your body’s source of fuel and provides the nutrients you need to function and perform properly on every level. Not all food is created equal, however, so it’s important to make sure you’re getting the right nutrients for your individual needs. This is true whether you’re an athlete or not.
Athletes who compete in physique sports are even more reliant on specific nutrients than most people. For bodybuilders, figure competitors, and other physique athletes, food is used for more than just fuel; it’s used to sculpt the body to look a certain way. Building and maintaining muscle is one part of the equation, but manipulating your nutrition to get as lean as possible plays an even bigger role for those who compete.
Unfortunately, getting to the level of extreme leanness required to compete at the elite level isn’t necessarily the most “healthy” way of life, especially during the final weeks of a pre-contest dieting phase. As you get close to a competition date, your diet tapers down in calories and often restricts many essential food groups that would otherwise deliver nutrients that are vital to long-term overall health.
In general, nutrient intake per calorie is even more important than the actual quantity of calories. This means you can consume more calories as long as you’re focusing on the quality of nutrients in your food. You want to focus on optimal micro and macronutrients per calorie. To ensure good health, you need to balance caloric intake which is appropriate for your daily needs and activity while avoiding nutrient deficiencies.
To avoid nutrient deficiencies, make sure to focus on foods that are whole and unprocessed. Technically, you should avoid processed foods most of the time anyway or only incorporate them into “cheat” meals. These include any foods that are high in refined sugars, sodium, or trans fats. It’s best to avoid them even during cheat meals, but if you really feel the need, that’s the only time to rationalize them.
When it comes to off-season nutrition—when your 12 weeks out or more from a competition date, it’s best to avoid a diet restricts your vital micro and macronutrients. Make it a point to continue eating functional foods that are healthy and enjoyable while also helping keep you lean.
Some of these functional foods that are especially beneficial to athletes and are high in a broad spectrum of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals not found in other foods. This means including fruits, grains, and healthy fats. Again, do your best to always eat whole foods and avoid processed foods whenever possible.
I’m in off-season mode, so I’m currently incorporating more fruit into my diet since that’s something I don’t eat during my contest prep. Fruit is a good source of many nutrients and has an abundance of healthy properties and antioxidants you might not get from just taking vitamin supplements. My current go-to, all plant-based morning shake with fruit is listed below:
1 scoop Vanilla Bean RawFusion
1/2c (handful) of spinach
4oz unsweetened almond milk
2 stevia packets
It’s super delicious, sweet enough to be a great treat, and it’s packed full of protein and plenty of health-building nutrients. Try it and enjoy!
Note: For information purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.