No matter what your age, staying competitive in athletics and scholastics involves the same place: your plate. The right nutrition is what gives us the fuel we need to achieve our goals—affecting everything from our strength and recovery, to our focus and cognition. But to truly maximize the benefits, you can’t just know what to eat; you also have to know when. That’s why we’ve collected all the wellness tips you’ll need to learn how to be healthy in body and mind.
Always on the run? Check out our favorite fast, easy snacks that you can take on the go!
What to Eat for Good Health
2000-3000 calories is the general daily recommendation, but can vary based on age, sex, and training intensity. Because of this, it’s important not to get too hung up on calorie counting. Instead, focus on getting your calories the right way, from the right sources.
Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate is a great guide that outlines what you should aim for in every meal1:
- ½ fruits and veggies
- ¼ whole grains, like whole wheat, quinoa, oats, and brown rice.
- ¼ protein, from healthy sources like peanuts, chicken, fish and beans.
- Plant oils in moderation, including healthy choices like olive oil, peanut oil, canola, soy and others. (Avoid partially hydrogenated oils, which can contain trans fats)
- Beverages like water, coffee or tea. For active days, drink more water as coffee and certain teas contain caffeine that can dehydrate you.
Physical and Mental Performance are Connected
Physical and mental health can have a strong link, which means eating healthy foods like peanuts doesn’t just get results on the field—it can also offer mental benefits like improving our response to stress, reducing risk for depressive symptoms, and keeping our minds sharp as we age. Plus, physical activity has shown to improve overall mental health.
The Big Three
For athletes specifically, there are three macronutrients that you’ll want to focus on from the above list.
- Carbs – These are your primary fuel for muscles. The greater the intensity and duration of your workouts, the more you’ll need to take in.
- Protein – Essential for proper recovery, getting enough protein can help your body bounce back from tough workouts faster.
- Fat – While it may seem counter-intuitive, fat plays a number of roles essential to both physical and mental performance.
According to Dartmouth Athletics, getting enough calcium and iron can also be crucial, as they promote things like bone health and oxygen transport (respectively).2
When to Eat for Peak Health & Nutrition
Now that we’ve covered the optimum meals, let’s look at the optimum times to fuel up.
(While these time frames should work for the majority of regimens, everyone is different, so be sure to listen to your body.)
1-2 hours before training, try for a small-to-medium-sized meal of protein and complex carbs. This can help maintain, increase, and protect your muscles, while providing the energy you need to see your routine through. (If you’re having a larger, well-balanced meal, you’ll want to wait 2-3 hours.)
For a light meal or snack, like a smoothie or fruit slices, shoot for finishing about 30 minutes before your workout.
Peanut Plus-Up: Peanut powder contains about 40-50% protein and has shown to increase markers of muscle strength and growth—which makes it a great addition to your pre- or post-workout smoothie.3
Maximize your recovery by refueling at the right time, with the right food.
Strength Training: Eat up to 2 hours after.
Cardio Training: Eat up to 30 minutes after.
Peanut Plus-Up: According to Self.com, combining complex carbs and protein-rich foods post-workout can help build lean muscle, boost recovery and prevent soreness—recommending a slice of whole wheat toast, a tablespoon of peanut butter, and half of a sliced banana as a great option.4
In addition to being a nutrient-rich plant-based protein for athletes, peanuts can also serve as a healthy way to manage weight, and support your mental health. All in as little as one serving per day.
(Looking for more ideas to plus up your meals and snacks? Be sure to check out our recipe page!)
A Recipe for Success in Any Competition
Healthy diets lead to healthy bodies and minds, and with a consistent plan, you can get the most from every workout, and even more from your studies. Just be sure to use these schedules as a guide, not a mandate—because being at your best starts with finding the schedule that works best for you.