1) Be Mindful of your Macros. Choose dishes that match your sport’s nutritional needs. Endurance athletes can get away with a more carbohydrate loaded meal, while strength athletes can choose a primarily protein load (such as a steak dinner). But, if you’ve had a particularly light macro day, balance it out at dinner. Menus will generally list the most important component of the meal first. Ravioli stuffed with sausage and sage is a carbohydrate dish, whereas a 10 oz. New York Strip with ravioli is a protein dish with a carbohydrate side.
2) Don’t Put off Portions. No matter if you lean more towards carbs, proteins or fats as your main macro, portion sizes are still very important. Portion sizes allow you the ability to insure you’re eating enough, but not too much. A portion of pasta/rice/grains is about a cupped hand. Meat should be around 4 ounces, or the size of a deck of cards. Veggies should be about the size of a lightbulb or a baseball. And the number of these portions per meal will depend on your gender and/or weight (more on that in a future blog post). If you’re served more than a normal portion, take it home in a doggie bag for later! Also, don’t feel stuck by traditional menu set ups you don’t need an appetizer and a main meal. Feel free to get two apps or side dishes if you see some that are more aligned with your tastes or nutritional needs.
3) Keep your Calories in Check. Even if you’re a high calorie burner, all athletes need to insure they’re getting enough, but not too many. Most chain restaurants will have menus that list each dish’s calorie count. At a place that doesn’t have the feature? If you watch your portion sizes, you can get a pretty accurate calorie count using an app like MyFitnessPal or the USDA ChooseMyPlate.gov website. Ask for things like sauces, jus, broths and oils/butters on the side. Find keywords that hint to either lower or higher calorie offerings. Grilled, steamed, broiled or baked choices tend to have less calories in than fried, battered, breaded, sautéed, or glazed choices.
4) Abandon the Alcohol. Nix the mixed drinks, because they’re more full of corn syrup, sugar and artificial flavoring than anything else. Alcohol and athleticism don’t generally go together well, so steering clear of a bar tab is good advice if you’re in competition mode. However, if you do want to partake, remember that all alcohol is going to have some sort of calories associated with it. Also, be sure to hydrate with water or other hydration sources, as this will help stave off some of the more negative effects of alcohol. Lastly, you’ll want all of that alcohol metabolized before you try to sleep (alcohol is a known sleep interrupter), so stick to the rule of 1 ounce metabolized per hour. If you plan on going to bed by 10, your 7pm dinner drink can only be 3 ounces of alcohol.
5) Dine out with Discretion. Make dining out a special occasion. Get spruced up. Plan it into your week’s/month’s schedule. Choose something that you haven’t had in a while or that you really enjoy. Pick a place that may be slightly above the usual pay grade. By making such an effort to eat out, this will help to insure that you don’t fall into a bad habit of eating out unnecessarily due to ease. When troubled with the decision of “where do you want to eat,” rummaging through the cabinets and preparing a meal with raw produce that is catered to exactly how you like it may not seem like such a hardship if eating out is a big event. Plus, when you do get the chance for a date night or a break from the kitchen, it may seem that much better.