Nutrition Articles

5 Diet Mistakes That Derail Your Workouts

These Food Flubs Affect Athletic Performance

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.

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