The popular axiom "if the furnace is hot enough, it'll burn anything" may be true to a certain degree, but competitive athletes are wise enough to acknowledge that what goes into their mouths has a direct correlation to what their legs can put out. Eating healthy at home is one thing, but going out to restaurants for a meal with friends is a part of life, too.
So how can the socially involved, real-word athlete dine out while still eating for performance? According to nutritionist Krista Austin Ph.D., it's a matter of reading between the lines of a restaurant's menu and taking into consideration where you are with your training.
"Much of what an athlete should be looking for is dependent on the training session they completed that day," says Austin. "However, my policy is that at least once a week every athlete should have a 'fun meal' where they don't think too much about what they are eating and just enjoy fun food -- the key is to watch the portion sizes."
What’s in a plate?
An athlete's dietary requirements are quite different from that of the average person.
"If it was a harder session, especially one that was longer in nature, they should focus on consuming a meal that contains starchy carbohydrates, say half the plate, that provide the calories they need to refuel and recover rather than ones that are not as energy dense such as vegetables and fruits; although every meal should contain these to some extent," explains Austin.
"Conversely, if it is an easier day, this should be switched and so forth. Easy days the plate might not even contain starchy carbohydrates, it may be fruits and vegetables; a moderate day would have a plate be one-third starchy, one-third fruit and veggies and the remainder protein. Athletes should always remember to gauge their hunger to help control the volume of food that they eat; if you're hungry, eat; and as you get full, stop!"
Caitlin Chock set the then-national high school 5k record (15:52.88) in 2004. Still an avid runner, she works as a freelance writer and artist.