To perform at optimal levels athletes need to properly fuel their bodies. It’s not unusual for an athlete to have a rigorous training schedule lasting up to five or six hours per day. While that is probably more than most of us exercise in an entire week, we too can benefit from eating like an athlete. Athlete’s look at their food as more than just calories – it’s fuel. The right foods will help increase your energy and strength while wrong ones can hinder your progress. Try these six tips to fuel like an athlete.

Don’t skip breakfast.

Get some fuel in your tank first thing in the morning with breakfast. You’ll feel more energetic and be able to choose better quality foods throughout the rest of the day. Skipping breakfast can set you up for hunger and cravings later in the day, which can derail your goals. Fuel for a high energy day with a combination of protein and carbohydrates, like Greek yogurt with berries or hard boiled eggs and a whole-wheat English muffin. Luvo’s steel cut oatmeal and farmers market frittata make breakfast even faster. For more quick and healthy breakfast recipes, check out this post.

Eat enough carbs.

Carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap over the years, but exercising muscles need them. The key is to choose the right types of carbs and practice portion control. The best carb sources contain other nutrients in addition to carbohydrates, like whole grains, fruit, starchy vegetables, and legumes. Try adding a serving of oats, sweet potato or brown rice to your meal. Aim to have a serving of carbohydrate at each meal and snack, alongside a protein and non-starchy vegetable.

Fuel with nutrient dense foods.

Athletes fuel on a balanced diet loaded with vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and high-quality protein. By eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods, you’ll have more energy and your body will feel better. Keep junk food or fast food to a minimum, as this will slow you down and make you feel sluggish. Try incorporating foods such as oatmeal, whole-grain bread, fresh fruit and vegetables, eggs, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, natural peanut butter, and nuts like walnuts and almonds. Luvo’s entrees are a great choice, providing you with one or more servings of fruits and vegetables plus lean protein and whole grains.

Eat for recovery.

What you eat after a workout is just as important as the exercise you are doing. The best post-workout foods include a mix of carbohydrate and protein, along with plenty of fluid. The carbohydrate helps to replenish your muscle fuel while protein repairs the damaged muscle tissue. Fluids are essential to replace what you lost in sweat. By refueling correctly after your training session, you’ll decrease muscle soreness, build new muscle tissue, and improve your body’s ability to burn fat. Try a glass of chocolate milk, yogurt with berries and granola, or half a turkey sandwich.

Eat to train, don’t train to eat.

Many people think “I went for a run today so I can have this brownie.” The problem with this mentality is that you often aren’t burning as many calories as you think, and you can end up overeating. By thinking of food as fuel for your training session and for complete recovery afterward, it gives food a function which can help prevent mindless eating.

Rethink your drink.

Adequate hydration is necessary not only during your workouts but throughout the entire day. Dehydration can trick your body into thinking it’s hungry, when really you just need more fluid. Plus, when you stay hydrated during the day it’s easy to replace what you lose during exercise. Water is the best fluid choice, followed by tea and coffee (black). Avoid energy drinks, which are loaded with sugar and empty calories. Most people don’t need sports drinks unless you are training several hours a day or in the intense heat.

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