healthy foods

Top 8 Healthy Foods for Athletes

When it comes to eating healthy foods, athletes need to choose items that will give them the best bang for their buck. Some food contain lots of nutrients while others do not.  Eating for performance needs to happen all the time which means at every meal and snack.  Using whole foods is key, not just the latest protein powder or energy gel.  These are my top 8 healthy foods for athletes.

1. Chocolate Milk

This had to be #1 on my list because of its great 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein that works very well for recovery after workouts. Choosing a low fat version will help with reducing bad calories. Chocolate contains caffeine which relaxes and dilates blood vessels so that blood can flow to muscles faster and easier. Be aware of the sugar content in some brands.

2. Berries

healthy foodsStrenuous exercise can produce free radicals and oxidative stress that can damage cells in your body. Healthy foods like berries contain antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and E that will combat the effects.  Consuming lots of them will help to slow down the loss of muscle strength with increased age.

Larger quantities of phytochemicals are found in colorful berries like blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. Use them in protein shakes, on cereal, with yogurt or on their own as a snack.


3. Salmon

There are two fatty acids in omega-3 found in fish like salmon and trout, EPA and DHA.  EPA will help to reduce inflammation caused by exercise and DHA can help to treat and prevent brain issues like concussions which are common in contact sports. Choose wild salmon over farmed sources as they contain less contaminants. Not all areas will have it in their stores so try using canned wild salmon in recipes using healthy foods like chowders, pastas and salads. As I tell the athletes I mentor, eat fish twice a week as a minimum or use a fish oil supplement.

4. Beans

Eating protein from healthy foods like beans is important if you are avoiding meat products.  Good sources are soybeans,  tofu, peas, and various types of beans from black to white to kidney. There is less protein in beans than in meats with about 7 grams per cup but beans have no saturated fat. They are a good source of fiber which help with digestion and feeling full longer.

5. Pasta

healthy foodsHealthy foods that contain carbohydrates are an important part of an athlete’s diet. Carbs are used as a fuel source and are converted to glycogen that is stored in your liver and muscles.

Whole grains are better than processed grains like white rice and flour (white bread). Processing removes the husk of the grain which contains fiber nutrients.


6. Bananas

As far as healthy foods go, bananas are a good source of natural sugar and electrolytes. Potassium found in bananas helps your body regulate fluids and prevent muscle cramps. You lose potassium in sweat during exercise so bananas can really help.

7. Quinoa

Tough to pronounce but this whole grain contains 8 grams of protein per cup. This is almost twice as much as any other grain. It is one of very few healthy foods to contain all nine essential amino acids – the ones you HAVE to eat from food as your body cannot produce them.  They are an essential building block of lean muscle during recover from tough workouts. If that was not enough, quinoa contains carbohydrates and fiber as well. Recipes include it as a replacement for pasta and rice or as a breakfast cereal.

8. Vegetables

healthy foodsVeggies are a great source of vitamins and minerals you need for optimum performance. Cruciferous varieties like broccoli, cauliflower and kale have high quantities of antioxidants and fiber. Eating lots of different colors of vegetables will give you a wide variety of nutrients and recipe choices.

Athletes need a variety of healthy foods in their diet in order to consume the right nutrients that are essential for growth and performance.



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Jacques Delorme

Jacques is a sports nutrition coach based in Regina, Saskatchewan and the owner of Fuel the Hunger. "Everything I do, I believe in changing lives. I believe the knowledge and skills athletes learn will lead to a healthy, thriving society." He offers presentations and individual and group nutrition coaching. Check the "Our Services" page for details.

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