Judith Haudum

Athletes in Search of Healthy Recipes

Due to Covid-19, athletes, who usually have little time for cooking, now have more time to do so. Some take advantage of this opportunity to try out new recipes. In some kitchens, you'll find the good old cookbooks, while others prefer the internet over books and search blogs for new ideas. However, caution is advised!

A good recipe is only a good recipe if it includes the nutritional information and aligns with the typical recommendations for athletes. With the available information, one can adjust the portions to meet their own needs. This is the only way to ensure that the recipe meets one's individual energy and nutrient (e.g., macronutrient) requirements.

Many blogs and posts with catchy titles about good, healthy recipes for athletes deliver calorie-rich recipes. Websites on cooking for athletes promote recipes, but many simply play with popular keywords from current diet trends: vegan, vegetarian, local, seasonal, superfoods, sugar-free. And to top it off, a nice photo that makes the recipe look even better and healthier.

The food industry has been using this tactic for years to convince consumers to buy their products. Special labels, unique packaging, and an original product name are a successful strategy to boost sales.

Athletes are of great interest

Athletes are of great interest to companies and bloggers. They are a crucial consumer group as they aim to eat healthily and have high-quality meals. They prioritize the best for their bodies, with many paying more attention to nutrition than the general population. Athletes seek to maximize their performance, and maintaining a healthy, high-quality diet contributes to achieving this goal.

Choose the right portion.
Some recipes specify the number of servings, but athletes require portions tailored to their needs, which usually differ from standard servings. Nutrient requirements are elevated, meaning portion sizes need to be adjusted.

Clearly, a recipe marketed as healthy is not enough. To assess its adequacy, we need the nutritional information. Even healthy ingredients can be calorie-dense. Adding nuts, seeds, oil, avocado, or coconut flakes to a dish can quickly turn a low-calorie meal into one with several hundred calories. Yes, healthy foods also contain energy. Sometimes, you might be surprised by the actual nutrient composition of a recipe when you analyze it.

What to Look for in a Recipe

A recipe should definitely include the energy content (kcal), macronutrient distribution, and salt content. The distribution of fats and other nutrients (e.g., fiber) is also helpful, especially iron and calcium, two important nutrients for athletes. With the provided nutrient distribution, the meal can then be adjusted to one's needs based on training load. Remember: the portion size must be adjusted. The recipe should be nutritious, but - especially for athletes - it should also provide the necessary carbohydrates (fuel) for intense and prolonged exertion.

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