Why Healthy Diet is Important for All Athletes

For the past several years, “muscle confusion” workouts have dominated fitness trends. It seems that the public has fully bought into the fact that you should change up your exercise to get the best results. This message has been mostly overlooked or under-appreciated when it comes to diet. As humans, we are creatures of habit. For the most part, many of us eat the same breakfast and a similar lunch day in and day out, or at least Monday-Friday. Dinner seems to invite the most variety. Research shows that variety is key to a healthy diet. In fact, variety is more important that ticking off each check box of a balanced diet each day.

Take this study for example. Whomever and associates at the University of wherever, fed the same 2 fruits to group A for 6 weeks. Group B only got one fruit per day, but received a different fruit every day for 6 weeks. The control group, Group C, received no fruit each day for throughout the 6 week study. At the end of the study, Group B showed less inflammation compared to groups A and C.

Such results are significant for the entire population, but especially for athletes whom may require greater antioxidant intake to aid in exercise recovery and improvement. After all, exercising is a process of breaking your body down, challenging it. The benefits are reaped in recovery. With proper rest and nutrition the body fortifies the muscles and processes responsible for moving you so that you can become stronger, faster, more fit. There is not a single athlete out there that isn’t aware of how important it is to keep inflammation at bay and who desires the greatest gains from their training. Increased variety in an athlete’s diet is one way to achieve this.

Every food offers unique nutrients to our bodies. There are no bad foods (whole foods), except those that are old and moldy. For instance, bromelin is found only in pineapple. Bromelin is a unique antioxidant that has been shown to reduce joint inflammation. Only peppers contain capscian, which has been shown to aid your immune system and metabolism. Fermented dairy products, like yogurt, contain probiotics that have shown superior benefit with digestion and immune function over probiotics found in other fermented foods. The list could go on for special properties of each and every whole food. By focusing on including greater variety in your diet, you are more likely to get more or all of these nutrients and their unique benefits.

Avoid food ruts. By being adventurous with your eating, you may just find that your health, as well as your athletic performance is boosted. Ideally your food would vary from day to day. At very least, make yourself a general rule to never eat the same food more than once in a day. If you have a banana with breakfast, choose a different fruit at snack time. If you chose chicken at lunch, aim for beans or fish with dinner. To work towards greater variety with lunch and dinner, designate one day of the week as “new food day.” Use that meal to either cook or order something you have never tried before. Wander the farmers market in search of foods you can’t identify or have never tried. If you need help with creativity to increase the variety of foods you enjoy, go to Eatingwell.com/new recipes or vegetariantimes.com.



About Mari-Etta Parrish

MariEtta Parrish is Registered Dietitian who owns her own Nutrition Consulting company in Nashville, TN, called Healthlete. She is one of only four Dietitians in the state of Tennessee that have a board specialty in Sports Nutrition. She works with individuals, companies, and teams to help them achieve their goals using focus, food, and fitness. Currently she is the Team Dietitian for the Tennessee Titans and the Nashville Predators, but devotes as much passion to the local weekend warriors and to mentoring students. Most importantly, she “practices what she preaches.”
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