Eat and indulge like an athlete

(NC) As we approach the kick off to the most-anticipated sporting event of the year, athletes around the world are single-mindedly focused on how to get to the podium.

This focus not only includes training, trials and exercise, but also the food they use to fuel their bodies and better their performance.

But if you think all athletes eat chicken breasts and salad, you'll be surprised by Canadian paddling legend Adam Van Koeverden's unique approach to nutrition.

While he focuses his diet on healthy proteins, healthy fats and healthy carbs, the four-time Olympic medallist says that timing, frequency and even indulgences are just as important.

"Sprint kayaking has elements of strength, power and endurance - hitting all of the training zones almost every day - which ends up meaning we eat a ton of food," said Van Koeverden. "Five meals a day is pretty typical, before and after three training sessions. I eat when I'm hungry until I'm full."

Loblaw's Registered Dietitian Katie Southgate, says that eating frequently with meals and snacks planned around training or activity can help both elite and casual athletes perform better, recover faster and reduce the risk of injury. As part of the company's sponsorship, President's Choice will be feeding thousands of athletes and volunteers during the Toronto 2015 Games.

"After training, the recovery clock starts ticking and timing of nutrients is important," said Southgate. "Consuming a snack or fluid containing carbohydrates and protein within 30 minutes after training can help the body refill energy stores, repair muscle and rehydrate."

Southgate also points out that food choices can also affect an athlete's state of mind.

"There's no need for athletes to deny themselves the food they love," said Southgate. "Indulging in moderation is a valuable strategy for enjoying a healthy, active lifestyle."

Van Koeverden agrees.

"Just because something is calorie dense and nutrient poor doesn't mean it won't help my performance," said Van Koeverden. "If an indulgence makes me happy, and I can have it in moderation, then I think it improves my performance by improving my attitude and overall mood. There's nothing wrong with having a treat in my books, and yes I love donuts."

Here are some tips for 'How to eat like an athlete', tips from Loblaw's Registered Dietitian Katie Southgate:

1. Focus on Fluids: Make sure you're well hydrated before, during and after training or competitions.

2. Think Whole: For peak performance, focus your diet on whole foods like fruit and vegetables, fibre-rich grains, lean proteins and healthy fats.

3. Carbohydrates are key: The single most important source of energy for your muscles. Be sure to include carbohydrate-rich foods like grains, fruits, pasta and cereals at meals and snacks throughout the day.

4. Plan Ahead: Have a game plan for the foods and fluids you'll use for fuel, so that you have them on hand when you need them.

5. Practice your sports nutrition like your practice your sports: Finding the foods, fluids and timing of meals or snacks that work best for you may take a little practice, so don't give up.