Nutrition Articles

5 Diet Mistakes That Derail Your Workouts

These Food Flubs Affect Athletic Performance

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Your diet may be the missing link in your training plan. Here are some common nutrition mistakes that many athletes and exercise enthusiasts make that can negatively affect performance. (Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered with the solutions, too!)
#1: You Eat Too Little (or Too Much) Protein
Some athletes eat too little protein; others eat too much. Too little protein and your muscles can’t recover, repair and strengthen properly from hard training. Too much protein taxes your kidneys, leads to an excessive calorie intake (which can result in excess body fat), or replaces the other equally important foods and nutrients that are needed for optimal performance.
Solution:  Determine your daily protein needs (here's how) and develop the meal plans that will deliver the appropriate amount for your exercise level. And remember: Don't overdo it on the protein shakes, either. Not every athlete really needs these supplements, and they can contribute to excessive protein intake. Get the scoop on protein powder here.

#2:  You're Skimping on Iron
Iron deficiency causes needless fatigue and reduced performance and is particularly common among women who have heavy periods, participate in endurance events, and rarely or never eat red meat or iron-enriched foods (like breakfast cereals).

Solution: If you feel needlessly tired, get your blood tested by your doctor, and be sure to get your serum ferritin measured. Don’t take an iron supplement without confirmation of low iron or advice from your doctor.   
To help prevent anemia, strive to eat an iron-rich diet featuring:
  • Beef, pork, lamb, dark-meat chicken or turkey, salmon and tuna
  • Beans (black, kidney, garbanzo, navy, great Northern, etc.)
  • Iron-fortified cereals and iron-fortified whole grain breads, pasta and brown rice
To enhance iron absorption, have a vitamin-C rich food at every meal such as orange juice, berries, kiwi, broccoli, tomato, potato and sweet bell peppers.
#3:  You Don't Have Time to Eat after Working Out
At the end of a hard workout, remember that you haven't finished your training until you have refueled. Ideally, this should happen within the 30 minutes to 2 hours after your workout ends. Don't rush off to work or school, using the "no time to eat" excuse.

Solution: Plan ahead so you have recovery foods readily available. Even in a time crunch, you should be able to refuel your muscles properly. Post-workout nutrition doesn't have to be complicated. Think yogurt-fruit smoothie, a large glass of chocolate milk, or English muffin with peanut butter. "No time" is no excuse.
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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

Member Comments

  • article was very helpful.
    I think I'm guilty in alot of the above & strive to make changes. - 8/14/2015 7:22:27 PM
  • none of the links work...keeps saying...Page not found! - 3/2/2015 5:53:01 PM
    the link for post workout snacks does not work - 3/2/2015 5:40:07 PM
  • You can gain weight drinking nutritional drinks. I have, without eating much at all. They have a lot of fat calories! - 3/2/2015 11:09:43 AM
  • It appears that all of the links in this article do not work anymore - the page is missing (for the Determine your daily protein needs) Clicking on the link takes me to a 404 page

    - 10/30/2014 8:55:28 PM
  • Glad to know that I wasn't the only one having trouble the link "nutrients that are needed for optimal performance." - 9/12/2014 10:40:31 AM
    I, too, would like to see the links, but they are still broken.

    Great article. - 9/12/2014 5:26:39 AM
  • Like everything on sparkpeople, this article assumes all readers are women. Men should be careful about deliberately trying to eat iron-enriched cereals or increasing their iron intake. I was glad to at least see the caution about taking iron pills. - 7/23/2014 5:29:28 PM
  • for the broken link I searched SP it is easy to type in "determine your daily protein needs" and you get a sp point for the search.

    - 7/23/2014 2:48:54 PM
  • The link for determining your daily protein needs is broken as well. - 7/23/2014 8:56:52 AM
    Link for "nutrients needed for optimal performance" is broken. - 7/23/2014 7:33:14 AM
    Great tips, I sometimes forget to eat breakfast after I work out. I know its a big no-no. - 7/23/2014 6:55:29 AM
  • The links are still broken. - 7/23/2014 1:25:03 AM
  • Please fix the links. I want to know how to calculate adequate protein particularly. - 6/20/2014 12:00:54 PM
  • Thanks for the article.

    An additional word of caution about iron, there is a disease condition (hemochromatosis) where a person's body stores too much iron and eventually the build-up becomes toxic. Interestingly, one of the possible symptoms is fatigue. The ferritin test recommended in the article should alert your doctor if this is an issue. Like the article says, do not take an iron supplement without first talking to your doctor. - 6/18/2014 3:12:42 PM

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