Ultimate Healthy Eating Guide For The Physically Active (+ 11 Tips For Kids!)

By Daniela Michaely | April 20, 2018

Ultimate Healthy Eating Guide header

Have you ever been in the middle of planning a healthy diet menu and you started to question if one of your ingredients is really healthy?

Or you've wished that there is a list of all the healthy eating tips in just one location?

Then you’ve come to the right place, as we’ve collected everything there is needed to know about how to start eating healthy, whether for kids or adults involved in various physical activities.

Let’s dive right in.


Contents

Power Drink Chapter 1
Liquids: When, What, How Much
Vegetables and Supplements Chapter 2
The Basics of Healthy Eating
Eggs and Tomatoes Snacks Chapter 3
Don't Forgo The Snacks

Man Running to Finish Line Chapter 4
What To Eat Before Competitions
Banned Sugar Chapter 5
Misjudged Nutrient Srouces: Fats And Sugar
Exclamation Point Icon Chapter 6
Tips On How To Make Youngsters Eat Healthy

Liquids: When, What, How Much


Power Drink

If you take part in high intensity sports or workouts, your body expels a lot of water from your system through sweating as an attempt to cool your body down.

If you don’t replenish all those lost liquids, dehydration will occur and your body will overheat, stopping you from your activity or decreasing your athletic abilities.

Now, do you really know when to rehydrate, just how much liquid is necessary, and what kinds of drinks are allowed?

Luckily, we do. Read on to find out.


When To Rehydrate?

  • The most basic indication is when you feel thirsty. In fact, some studies suggest that if you’re feeling thirsty, then you’re already mildly dehydrated. This is your body’s way of telling you that you should replace your fluids immediately.
  • However, just drinking whenever you’re feeling thirsty is not enough to maintain proper hydration. During a training session, your body is continuously losing water. Most athletes won’t feel or notice that they’re already thirsty even though they’ve already lost great amounts of fluids, but that shouldn’t stop them from drinking during training.

  • Man Dehydrated

  • Your urine will also give you some clues about the state of your hydration. A normal urine color ranges from clear to bright yellow. If your urine appears darker in color, then it is a sign that you need more water.
  • Feeling a bit lightheaded during your physical activity might also be an indication of dehydration. So, when you feel light-headed during a workout, rest for a while and drink some water.
  • Dry mouth and skin can also be a sign of dehydration. If you’re starting to notice that your lips are starting to get chapped and dry, and your skin starts to need more lotion than usual, then you know it’s time for more liquids.

How Much Liquid Is Necessary?

If you have been into sports or exercise for a long time now, then you might already be aware that you should consume far more fluids during your training sessions than a normal person who isn’t physically active.

That is because your body’s temperature rises during an intense physical activity, causing your body to sweat in order to regulate your body temperature.

Studies suggest that the physically active should drink every 15-20 minutes during practice or workout, regardless of whether they’re thirsty or not.

Furthermore, within a training day, a healthy and average-sized person should finish around 28 to 48 ounces of water, distributed before, during, and after the exercise. The most amount of water should be saved for the end of the exercise.

However, keep in mind that the suggestions above are for a training environment that is cool and not very humid.

Man Drinking Water Sweating

So what are the drinking suggestions for people who train in hot and humid environments?

Unfortunately, simple water just might not cut it. In fact, too much water might even be more harmful than helpful.

Two hours of vigorous physical activity doesn’t just deplete water in your body, but also other important minerals like electrolytes and potassium, which are also essential for your athletic performance.

Normally, it is much better to get all these lost minerals from healthy meals. However, if you can’t take a snack break in the middle of your triathlon, you can get these from other liquids.

This is where power drinks and energy drinks come in handy. Sports drinks that have 6% to 8% of carbohydrate from various sugar sources is recommended for physical activities that lasts for more than an hour in hot and humid environments, like gymnastics or football.

But what are the suggested types of mineral drinks?

What Kinds Of Drinks Are Allowed?

  • Water, first and foremost. (Need I say more?)
  • If you’re not a fan of plain water, you can try coconut juice.
  • Fruit juices, especially ones made of blended watermelon.
  • The infamous sports drinks, which has three types: isotonic (contains similar concentration of salt and sugar in the human body), hypertonic (contains higher concentration of salt and sugar than the human body), and hypotonic (contains lower concentration of salt and sugar than the human body). Mostly, sports drinks are isotonic.
  • Samples of sports drinks: Gatorade, Accelerade, 100plus, and Powerade (which aren’t sponsored, by the way ;)).
  • Vitamin water, also known as enhanced water or fitness water, vitamin water comes in many flavors, containing various combinations of supplemental vitamins and minerals.
Energy Drink Poured Into Glass

Energy drinks, on the other hand, is a different story.

These drinks are loaded with caffeine for a quick energy boost, and it’s not really designed to replace lost vitamins and minerals in the body.

Also, they are not really suggested for kids, like some kinds of vitamin water, because their levels of caffeine can be a cause for upset stomach, headaches, fatigue, and sleep problems.

For adults, however, they need to be taken under moderation.


The Basics of Healthy Eating


Vegetables and Supplements

Whether you’re a seasoned or a beginner athlete, or just someone who spends hours in the gym to stay in shape, you need to know the basics of all the healthy foods to eat.

Okay, maybe you already know. But do you really understand why some are harmful? And why some are helpful?

Here’s an over-simplified explanation so you can pull it out of your head easily the next time you’re shopping.


Protein
Extreme physical activities results in microscopic wear and tears on your muscles. To avoid these, protein is important as it helps build and repair muscles. This could be found in fish, lean meat and poultry, dairy products, beans, nuts, and soy products. However, it is important to watch your protein intakes, as too much of it can lead to dehydration and calcium loss. (link to protein article)

Calcium
Even though adults’ bones are already developed, they deserve some maintenance, especially kids’ because their bones are still developing. Calcium would help develop strong bones to resist breaking and stress fractures. This mineral could be found in low-fat dairy products like milk, yogurt, cheese and leafy green vegetables like broccoli.

Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are great sources of energy and without this you’ll be running on empty during your trainings. When choosing carbs, focus on whole-grain foods like whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, whole-grain bread and cereal, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Food Iron Sources

Iron
Iron is important because it helps carry oxygen to all the different body parts that need it and this oxygen travels in the blood, pumped by your heart which is beating fast during a strenuous activity. Iron could be found in lean meat, chicken, tuna, salmon, eggs, dried fruits, leafy green vegetables, and fortified whole grains.

Fats
Most people consider fat as bad and evil. However, including fat in your diet can further improve your athletic performance. Fat not only acts as a source of calories, but it can also provide a source of energy and it can also aid recovery. Tuna, nuts, legumes, flax seeds and fish oil are some of the best sources of healthy fats.

Supplements
There are limited studies about the benefits of supplements among athletes, but two kinds of supplements are proven to be beneficial for them – a multivitamin and a calcium supplement. Taking multivitamins can assure you that you’re getting all the vitamins and minerals that your body needs for growth and development, while the calcium supplement will ensure your bone health. Having a strong bone is critical for some athletes, like gymnasts, so that their bodies could cope up with the stress that their bones endure while performing a gymnastics skill.

Water
Of course, keeping hydrated is important as well. A detailed explanation was given in Chapter 1.


Don't Forgo The Snacks


Eggs and Tomatoes Snacks

Now that we’ve gotten the heavy meals down, what about the light meals or snacks?

Just because you’re focused on maintaining your body doesn’t mean that you can’t eat snacks when necessary—and it’s not only for cheat days!

Like heavy meals though, it needs careful planning.

Here’s how it’s done.


Snacks

It goes without saying that proper nutrition is important for the physically active like gym buffs and athletes, especially those who engage in long and rigorous training sessions for days.

Not only does food and liquids give one enough energy, it also helps in the recovery.

When taken strategically, the effects of these foods are intensified, which is why we’ve taken the liberty to share with you how to properly divide your snacks.

  • Pre-Workout Snack
    • Before a workout or training, it is important to make sure that you have the right amount of energy for it. Make sure to eat at least one and a half hour before training, so you won’t train feeling full and your bodies will have enough time to digest the food.
    • Examples of good pre-workout snacks are: oatmeal (for protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates), peanut butter sandwich (for high proteins), yogurt and granola (for carbohydrates that fills glycogen stores, and protein).
  • Four Granola Bars

  • Intra-Workout Snack
    • A good snack during exercise or training is important for people who train for an extensive period of time, like gymnasts and football players. A quick refill will help them to go throughout the whole session.
    • Examples of great snacks during workout are: energy bars (for quick energy restoration), and the one we already explained in chapter 1—sports drinks.
  • Post-Workout Snack
    • At the end of a training day, all of the energy that your body has in store is already depleted by then and it is important to refill it so your body can recover fast. Remember, during training, all sorts of microscopic tears and frays happen to our muscles, and over time it accumulates. That is what we should avoid.
    • Examples of post-workout snacks are: grilled chicken with mashed potato (for lean protein that is important for muscle development and recovery), and whole wheat bread with tuna, lettuce and tomatoes (for protein and omega-3, which is helpful in body’s recovery because of its anti-inflammatory properties).
  • No Workout Days
    • Even if you have days when you don’t train or workout, it is still important to divide these snacks within the day for before lunch, before dinner, and before you sleep. This is to ensure that your body is recuperating well and is ready for another day of workout.

Breakfasts

Now, just because you already have snacks planned out throughout the day, that doesn’t mean that you don’t need breakfasts anymore. Like they say, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Kid Sleeping With Soccer Ball

If you sleep regularly for 8 hours a night, that means your body has been fasting for more than 8 hours already!

Why more than 8 hours? Because you probably last ate a couple of hours before sleeping.

So when you wake up in the mornings, even though you might not feel it, your body is already screaming for food.

Some people are even having night sweats. This means that when they’re asleep, the body is consuming its stores of glycogen and fats, leaving their body depleted when they wake up.

Which is why breakfasts are necessary.

A bowl of oatmeal and fresh milk is a good start. You can also try a chicken breast sandwich with whole wheat bread, lettuce, and low fat mayonnaise for the right amount of protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates.

A good combination of fruits and vegetables will be helpful too, like avocado toast with egg, quinoa fruit salad, or a cheesy spinach baked eggs.


What To Eat Before Competitions


Man Running to Finish Line

Simply knowing the heavy and light meals isn't enough. It is also important to know what to eat before a competition, if you’re a competitive athlete.

This matters because too much of it, or too little of it, and all your hard work in training would be wasted.

You wouldn’t want that to happen, now do you?

Then read on.


Unlike normal training days, a competition day requires a different food group. It is more strict than normal because too much or too less of it could affect your performance or cause an injury.

You might wake up on edge the morning of your competition, but no matter how queasy your stomach is, you have to eat.

A good and healthy breakfast is important for energy, balance, endurance, and concentration which are essential on that day more than any other day.

However, healthy breakfasts aren’t just one-size-fits-all. Your breakfasts adjust depending on what time the competition is, the intensity or length of the event, and your age.

Cyclist Competition

Here is how it all differs:

If you have two to three hours before competition and it is in the morning, a light breakfast is ideal. Although light, it needs to include some lean protein and be high in complex carbs like whole-grains. It could also include whole-wheat toast, low-fat yogurt and a banana.

However, foods high in fat, fiber and lactose should be avoided to prevent digestive discomfort.

If you have four or more hours before competition and it is around afternoon or evening where you could have four or more hours to digest your meal, you can eat a bigger breakfast.

Like the earlier scenario, this breakfast must include carbs and lean protein. It could also include a bowl of whole-grain ready-to-eat cereal with low-fat milk, an orange, two hard-boiled eggs and a toasted whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter.

Of course, after their competition, it is important to eat again to promote muscle healing and replenish lost energy.

However, it should be light and should be eaten within 30 minutes after the competition.

It should include a mix of carbs, protein and fat, also chilled fluids such as water or sports drink.


Misjudged Nutrient Sources: Fats and Sugar


Banned Sugar

In the nutrition community, it is common knowledge that fats and sugar must be avoided at all costs.

What if I tell you this is not right?

Sugar and fat are two of the most misjudged nutrients in the world of healthy eating.

Here is their real magic.


Fats

If there is one food source that has been given a bad reputation over the last thirty or forty years, it has to be fat. But would you believe that they are our friends more than they are our enemies?

Since you follow a strict diet, you must already know that too much of the wrong fats, or too much of any fat for that matter, can be bad for you.

But really, fat is not as bad as the food industry is making it out to be.

We have been fed decades of anti-fat, low-fat, and fat-free propaganda over the years. Much of that propaganda comes via the food industry that discovered a good little trick. Knock out the fat, add sugar to give the food some taste, and sell it back to consumers at a higher price as a healthy alternative.

Some physical activities like playing a sport require a lot of energy to be properly executed. Fat, most importantly, is a good source of energy, especially in the absence or reduction of carbohydrates.

This is aside from the fat being able to provide our kids with essential fatty acids. They also make up cell membranes and are important in the regeneration of cells, as well as in muscle and joint recovery.

Fats Food Sources, Salmon, Avocado

Somehow, we have bought into the notion that eating fat and being fat is the same thing.

In reality, we cannot function for more than a few days without eating fat.

The right kinds of fats are those that are full of Omega-3 and Omega-6 acids, like tuna and salmon, as they activate the body’s fat-burning genes and give the body a better fat storage.

On the other hand, mono-saturated and poly-saturated fats are both good fats, and you should eat foods that are rich in them.

Examples of mono-saturated fats are: canola oil, olive oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, olives, avocados, peanut butter, hazelnut, cashews, pecans, macadamia nuts, almonds.

Examples of poly-saturated fats are: corn oil, soybean oil, walnuts, safflower oil, flax seed, tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout, herring.

Sugar

Like fat, sugar is one of the most misjudged nutrient in the food industry.

Yes, it does have some negative effects to the body, but we shouldn’t push aside the good things that it does to us too.

Sugar is a carbohydrate, which we all know is a source for all the energy that we need to last a training day.

When sourced naturally, sugar is actually much faster in giving us energy than whole grains do. Although, it disappears just as quickly as well.

Why? Because if we eat sugar, it is easily broken apart by the insulin that our pancreas makes, than if we eat whole grains. Once these are broken apart, they are distributed in the blood stream, thus giving us the energy boost.

Different Kinds of Sugar

There are two kinds of sugar: glucose and fructose.

In simple terms, glucose is the good sugar because it is found in complex carbohydrates. They are mostly unprocessed (honey, maple syrup, fruits) so it maintains its natural nutritional composition, unlike its counterpart.

Fructose is the bad sugar because it is too heavily processed that too much of it overwhelms the liver’s ability to process it, thus leading to some complex problems like heart complications and weight gain.

Bottom line: it’s just a matter of what kinds of sugar we should ingest, and how much.

A psychiatrist and author, Dr. Drew Ramsey even wrote that, “Sugar is vital for your brain health—which is the biggest guzzler of the sweet stuff in your body.”


Tips On How To Make Youngsters Eat Healthy


Exclamation Point Icon

Having been doing sports or intense workout for a while, you have probably already grown out of being a picky eater and would eat just about anything healthy.

However, if you’re a parent and you just can’t get your athlete kids to take in what their bodies need, how do you do it?

Conveniently for you, we have tips on how to make children eat healthy, too!


Some sports require that their athletes start training at a very young age, like gymnastics. Most of them starts at age 3 or 4, and continues on until 20s. If you’re a parent that supports your child’s chosen sport, you also know that they need all the healthy meals that they can eat.

However, we all know and it is a common knowledge that feeding kids around these ages are difficult for us parents or guardians. They love sweets and unhealthy snacks. They throw tantrums if we don’t give them what they want. Luckily, combined with good coaching, there are a couple of tricks to encourage our young athletes to eat healthy.

  • It is best to introduce our youngsters to healthy eating at a young age, before they are exposed to the unhealthier foods.
  • If our kids are already exposed to unhealthy food, we can let them help us prepare the meals. If the kids are exposed to the love and effort that goes into preparing a healthy food, they will hopefully learn to appreciate it.
  • Kids Preparing Food With Mother

  • If our kids are indeed helping us prepare the meals, we should acknowledge something they are doing right so they would feel good about it.
  • Shopping for the ingredients also has an effect to our children as it makes them interested in the choices that we make. We can even teach them how to read the nutritional charts and inform them which foods are good and which are not.
  • Total ban of sweets, ice cream, and other less healthy food could result negatively to our kids. If they are deprived too much of what they want, once they are grown up and are making decisions for themselves, they are most likely to indulge into it more.
  • We should allow them to eat what they want once in a while as occasional treats, like if they did well in a competition or learned a new skill during practice.
  • Another great idea is to find a healthy alternative sweet that tastes just as good as the sweet that they like. Some kids would actually realize that they like those better.
  • Girl Looking Disgustingly At Vegetables

  • Now if our kids are picky eaters, we should be patient with them. We should do it one food item at a time and always try to make food fun. Turn it into an adventure or give it a story. Whatever we think works for them.
  • Snacks should be healthy as much as possible. Instead of cookies, try giving them their favorite fruit or vegetable. If they got used to eating healthy at snack times, there’s a huge chance that they would eat healthy during meal times as well.
  • We should also eat what we are trying to feed our children. If they can see that we enjoy eating it, chances are they would be encouraged to try it too.
  • Most importantly, we should not force them to eat vegetables if they don’t want to as it would result to them resenting the food their entire life. Instead, we should encourage them.

Eating the right kinds of food does not only help our kids’ physical health, but also their mental health.

As a matter of fact, studies have proven that healthy eating increases children’s concentration level so they can perform well in school.

This is why it is important to encourage our kids to eat healthy meals.


Penny For Your Thoughts?


Penny Coin

We hope you enjoyed this complete list of healthy eating guide and the few tips for our youngsters.

What did you think about the guide? Is there a new thing that you've learned? Are you going to try one of the tips after reading thisarticle?

Maybe you have questions or opinions, so don't be shy to leave a comment below right now!

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