Not everyone working out in the gym is here to lose weight. Some people are here to get stronger and fitter, some want curvier curves and flat abs and some want to prepare for peak performance in an athletic endeavor. Not only will the workouts vary for each of these groups, so will the nutritional advice. The nutrition tips for athletes are often far different from those for a person who wants to lose weight. Even within the group of athletes, there are different goals. Some are trying to boost muscle development, while also shedding pounds, while others just want to improve endurance and strength.

Healthy eating and whole foods are a great place to start.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re an athlete or not, eating healthy is important. Food is one of the best magic pills for good health when it’s chosen carefully and prepared right. Your primary focus will be on carbs and protein, however. The carbs will give you the energy for a great workout and the protein will provide the materials to mend your muscles and build them, keeping you performing your best. While pasta and breads will provide loads of energy, they won’t provide the nutrients that vegetables will. These vitamins and minerals are also important for building more muscle tissue and keeping the body healthy. Vary the color of the vegetables, eat them as close to natural as you can and enjoy every bite.

Don’t miss any of the BIG THREE and add some snacks in between them.

If you’re working out vigorously, you need adequate fuel and nutrients. Even if you’re not a morning person, don’t skip breakfast. Lunch and dinner warrant the same attention, just as snacks do. Breakfast is an important meal for athletes. Breakfast is an important meal. Eat something, even if it’s a dish of yogurt with fruit and granola sprinkles. It helps to get your blood sugar stable and boosts your performance throughout the day. Plan to include snacks throughout the day. Make sure that one meal is a few hours before your workout, then have a small snack and water about a half hour before you start if you’re planning on working out an hour or longer. A protein snack like a handful of nuts is a good idea. After the workout, eat again within two hours.

Stay hydrated.

Always carry water with you during your workout. Sip it before, during and after you workout. If it’s going to be longer than 90 minutes, you might consider a sports drink to replenish electrolytes. Don’t depend on your body to tell you when you need to hydrate. You don’t always feel thirsty until it’s too late. During hot weather, hydrating frequently is even more important. If you weigh yourself before the workout and then weigh yourself afterward, any lost weight is water weight. For every pound, drink three glasses of water.

  • Skip junk food altogether. Those burgers and fries, washed down with a beer won’t provide the benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables with grilled chicken or fish and a side of water.
  • Plan meals and snacks ahead. Make everything on the weekend and you’ll be ready for the week, focusing more on your workout with your nutrition already decided.
  • When you snack right before a workout, make sure it’s protein and not sugary or filled with carbs. Those tend to make you dehydrate quicker.
  • Don’t overdo the protein, it can tax your kidneys. You need between a half gram to a gram of protein per pound of body weight if you’re really active. Less if you’re not working out that day.