Top 10 Rules of Nutrition for Optimal Athletic Performance

By Brian Yeager

After working with athletes for the last six years, I have come to realize that we often view performance enhancement as a one way street. We go to the gym, train hard and expect to see constant changes and results. However, these results can not be optimized if we don't take a look at how we treat our bodies when we're not in the gym or training on the field. The weights that you lift, the speed training, and all the technical sessions that you perform are only the stimulus for change. Without proper fueling and recovery, your progress will be minimal and you may even experience a detraining effect. The body is a constantly changing organism and you must pay attention to how you are feeding this living, breathing machine. Below I have outlined some general guidelines to follow for optimal athletic performance.

1. Consume 4-6 balanced meals per day. This will help to fuel the metabolic rate, optimizing body composition and maintaining consistent energy levels throughout the day. Eating frequently throughout the day ensures that you will be able to build lean muscle tissue and lower your body fat levels if necessary.

2. Each meal should consist of a lean protein, fibrous carbohydrate, and healthy fats. Some sources of fibrous carbs are listed below.
  • Broccoli
  • Lettuce
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Mushrooms
  • Green beans
  • Onions
  • Asparagus
  • Cucumber
  • Spinach
  • All forms of peppers
  • Zucchini
3. Sources of healthy fats are nuts, seeds, fish, and supplemental fish oils. Over the years, many "experts" have preached against having any type of significant fat in your diet. In truth, if you are physically active and demanding of your body, your fat intake should equal 25-30% of your total calories

4. Avoid grains whenever possible, especially wheat. 75% of all Caucasians are allergic to a protein found in grains, know as glyadin. This can cause gastrointestinal stress, disruption of the nervous system, and slower recovery from training. All of these can hamper athletic performance. The majority of your carbohydrate intake should come from fruits, nuts, and vegetables and should account for 40-45% of your dietary intake. Protein should make up approximately 30% of your calories, but try to eat at least 1 gram per pound of bodyweight.

5. Avoid processed foods as much as possible. Chances are if it came in a box, can, or bag, you shouldn't be eating it. The best way to ensure that you're eating the right foods is to eat similar to a caveman. If you couldn't access a particular food 10,000 years ago, don't eat it.

6. When consuming fruits, the darker the better. Darker fruits tend to be higher in levels of antioxidants which will aid in recovery from training. They also tend to be higher in fiber, thus improving insulin response in the blood.

7. Avoid fried foods. Not only can these cause the storage of excess body fat, but they have shown to be toxic to the nervous system and brain tissue. Yes, fried foods might tasted good, and they might love to make you smile, but they won't help your performance on the field. If you must have fast food, make sure it's only on rare occasions.

8. Consume adequate water. Try to drink only filtered water from either a home filtration system or a high quality bottled water manufacturers. You should aim to drink half your body weight in ounces every day. Water is probably the most important, yet underrated sports supplement available today. As little as 3% dehydration in your body can cause a 10% drop in performance.

9. Take a high quality multivitamin and fish oil supplement every day. Active people and athletes have a higher requirement of vitamins and minerals. In several studies, upwards of 90% of all athletes tested were deficient of magnesium, a mineral critical to hundreds of processes in the body that affect your ability to perform.

10. Drink a quality post-workout shake after training and competition. Recovery from workouts should not be a passive part of your training. Eastern European and Russian athletes have seen incredible results from paying more attention to recovery and restoration, devoting as much as 1 hour of active recovery work for each hour spent in training.

You'll be ahead of the game once you realize that it takes more than just sweat and hard work to build the ultimate athlete. You wouldn't put dirty motor oil in a high performance car. You don't want to make a similar mistake with your body. Remember, train smarter, not harder.

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Brian Yeager is the owner of Pro Strength and new head strength and conditioning coach for the Philadelphia Barrage. In addition to training several players from the Philadelphia Wings, Brian has also worked with athletes from Villanova University, Malvern Prep, and Villa Maria Academy for Girls, in Malvern, Pa. Formerly a strength consultant for Lightning Fast training systems in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Brian has also worked with athletes from a variety of sports including football, volleyball, golf, and MMA.

For more information on Pro Strength, visit or contact Brian at

Medical Disclaimer: The information and routines outlined in the article are intended only for healthy individuals. Individuals with health problems or a history of injury should not use these or any exercise routines without a physician's approval. Before beginning any exercise or dietary program, please consult with your physician and/or coach, as well as with your parent/guardian if you are a minor.


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