You may be surprised to know that the diet of an athlete should not be very different than that of an average healthy adult. We are all in need of a healthy, balanced diet but depending on the level and amount of exercise you practice, the amount of food you consume may look different. Here is a breakdown of the essentials we all need to live a healthy and active lifestyle.

Carbohydrates

A little more than half of the calories you consume in a day should come from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are important because they supply the body with the energy needed to get through your workout. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should eat a plate of pasta before every workout. Instead, try a half cup of granola with yogurt or a handful of pretzels and a small glass of juice.

Protein

Protein is important for muscle growth and repairing body tissues. Individuals that live active lifestyles require more protein, but most Americans actually consume almost twice as much protein they need for muscle development. Often, people who focus on eating extra protein avoid carbohydrates, which are the most important source of energy during exercise. The rule of thumb is to eat red meat in moderation and incorporate more lean proteins like poultry, fish, and eggs for your caloric needs.

Fruits & Vegetables

The produce we eat not only provides our bodies with the calories we need, but also essential vitamins, minerals and fiber. Choosing a colorful array of fruits and veggies to incorporate in your diet is a key part in obtaining the array of vitamins and minerals our bodies need. An easy way to do this is by having fruits and vegetables cover half of your plate at mealtimes.

Water

Water is the most important and often overlooked nutrient for athletes. Experts commonly recommend eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day, but an athlete likely requires much more. It is important to consume water before, during, and after your workouts. An additional 1/2 to 1 cup of water every 15-20 minutes during a workout is recommended.

Choosing the right foods for an active lifestyle can feel complicated, but if we simply listen to our bodies, we can properly fuel ourselves for success. For more tips on how to fuel your body for your lifestyle, visit nutrition.gov for helpful tips and articles.