A guest post from my friend Joe over at ViveHealth.com-

For active adults, a healthy diet not only helps enhance and maintain your overall health but can also improve overall athletic performance. If you don’t maintain a healthy diet, you’ll get tired, perform poorly, and your health might also deteriorate gradually. Whether you’re in competitive sports or just enjoy a casual activity every now and then, keeping a few simple diet tips in mind can improve your health and help you achieve better results.

A healthy diet for athletic adults isn’t greatly different from that for a normal, healthy person. It is an ideal mix of calories, protein, carbohydrates, fluids (especially water), iron, vitamins, and other minerals. An ideal diet depends on three key factors:

  1.  The type of physical activity or exercise you do. A runner’s diet will be different from that of a weightlifter. Likewise, someone who just does simple cardio, like running, vs. someone who does advanced workouts, like toning their muscles with resistance bands, may need different diet plans.
  2. The amount of training you do every week. Do you have a 3-day split or do you hit the gym five times a week?
  3. The amount of time each workout lasts.

How much to eat and how long before the workout?

The answer depends on your digestive system. You could eat a well-balanced, nutrition-packed meal one or two hours before the workout or a small, easy to digest snack about half an hour before. If you eat too early or too little, your energy will crash leading to dizziness and tiredness. Eat too much and your digestive system and muscles will start competing for blood flow when you exercise. Your muscles always win, leaving the food undigested in your stomach, that can cause pain in the gut.

Simple rules to maintain a healthy diet: load up on complex carbs and fiber

Carbohydrates should be the source of any athlete’s main fuel. 65%-75% of your calories should come from carbohydrates. Foods like vegetables, fruit, pasta, rice, whole grain bread, bagels, and cereals are packed with carbs, energy, vitamins, fiber, and minerals, yet low in fat. Your body stores carbs as glycogen (a type of sugar) in your muscles and liver, and uses it during the physical activity. So, make sure you load on carbs before any workout and during an extended activity that lasts longer than an hour. For shorter workouts, sipping on some water should suffice. Also, reload the energy in your muscles after an intense workout.

Note that we are talking about complex carbs here. Simple carbs such as sugar, candies, jams, and soft drinks are packed with calories but don’t offer any nutritional value as there are no vitamins, minerals or other nutrients in them.

Eat proteins but in moderation

Protein intake, when coupled with strength training, can build, grow, and repair muscle. An average person should eat about 1 grams of protein per each pound of body weight. For extremely active adults, and especially those who are trying to lose some fat, up to 1.5 grams of protein per each pound of body weight can be consumed. Some ideal sources of protein include fish, poultry, lean meat, milk, egg whites, nuts, and beans. On the flip, eating too much protein can cause an increase in body fat, boost chances of dehydration, and can put added strain on your kidneys.

Ease up on fat

Fat, especially good fats, might not be as bad as many think. As per U.S Department of Agriculture, active adults should get about 25% of their calories from fats. For extended exercises and marathons, your body turns to fat to get energy once it runs low on available carbs. Good fats mean unsaturated fats that come from vegetable oils, fatty fish (trout, tuna, salmon, catfish, etc.), avocado, nuts, seeds, olives and so on.  Bad fats, i.e. saturated, and trans fatty acids can raise cholesterol level and cause diseases, especially heart disease. These are commonly found in animal products such as dairy, poultry, eggs, partially hydrogenated oils, etc. Vegetable fats that stay liquid at room temperature also fall into this category.

Stay hydrated

One overlooked, but most important part of an active adult’s diet is fluids, especially plain water. Water, fresh juices, fruit smoothies, green tea, and skim milk help you replenish the fluids lost as sweat during exercise, and keep your body temperature at an ideal level. In just one hour of intensive exercise, your body can get deprived of several liters of sweat.  Drink plenty of water before exercise and continue sipping during the workout, with every meal, and throughout the day. Depending on the weather, your physical condition, and your workout routine, you might need to drink anywhere between 6-10 8-ounce glasses of water every day.

To see if you’re properly hydrated or not, look at the color of your urine. A pale yellow to clear is the ideal color, indicating your body is well-hydrated, the darker it gets, the more dehydrated your body is. An orangish yellow urine hints you’re severely dehydrated and need to see a physician.

Thanks for reading!