Author: Janet Carter, MS, RD, LD
Very few people make their living as a professional athlete. More often than not, they exercise to maintain a healthy weight. The main difference between nutrition for performance and nutrition for weight loss is that nutrition for performance is more focused on timing and nutrient ratios, while nutrition for weight loss is more focused on caloric intake and portion control. It is important in both situations to eat as healthy as possible MOST of the time. Of course, an occasional treat is okay, but the more often treats sneak in, the less likely you are to meet your performance or weight loss goals.
Nutrition for optimal athletic performance hinges on the right ratios of carbohydrates, fat and protein, in addition to the proper timing of intake. Recommendations vary significantly depending on the sport, which is why it is critical to get personalized advice from a professional. For instance, endurance runners need more carbohydrates overall and need to fuel properly during their event, whereas bodybuilders need a bit higher protein intake and need to make significant changes to their diet prior to competitions. Overall, however, the “cleaner” the diet, the better the performance.
The main focus in nutrition for weight loss is calories. The only way for the body to tap into its fat stores is to create a calorie deficit. This can be done through increased exercise, decreased caloric intake or both. Doing both will, of course, lead to better success. There are so many nuances to a weight loss plan that it is very important to speak with a professional.
Whatever your personal goals may be, remember to be realistic.It is also very helpful to reduce temptations at home in addition to building a strong support system.
(Disclaimer–this is appropriate for an average, healthy person who is not trying to gain or lose weight, manage a chronic disease or train for an athletic event):
Plain oatmeal with 1/4 cup walnuts & sweetened with 1/2 cup blueberries
Sandwich with lean turkey breast, avocado, sprouts and mustard on whole grain bread with a veggies-only salad with oil & vinegar
Apple with 1 ounce of cheese
Grilled chicken breast (marinated in olive oil & garlic) with 1/2 cup quinoa and 1 cup roasted carrots
Small piece of dark chocolate OR 4 ounces of wine
Healthy high-calorie foods to include any time:
– Nuts of all kinds
– Nut butters of all kinds
– Smart Balance or other vegetable-based spreads
– Olive oil, vegetable oil, canola oil
Moderately healthy high-calorie foods to include sometimes:
– Dark Chocolate