By Lindsey Joe

Ever wonder what it takes to be a world-class athlete? Not only do you need extraordinary talent and dedication, but you also need foolproof eating habits that help you perform like a pro.

While most of us aren't at all-star status, there are definitely a few tips and tricks we can learn from these superhuman specimens. Check out these five healthy eating habits that are athlete-tested and approved:

  1. Always eat breakfast. When your energy needs are up to six times that of the average active individual, there's no way you can miss meals or snacks! Athletes also understand that eating every few hours ensures they'll get plenty of nutrients and keep their metabolism humming. Follow their lead, and eat for the first time about one hour after you wake up.
  2. Hydrate with H2O. Drinking water couldn't be more crucial to regulating your internal temperature and cushioning your joints. Not only that, but water provides everything your body needs to rehydrate. Plus, it's easy on the wallet! Men should aim for 125 ounces of water per day; for women, it's 91 ounces.
  3. Make meal plans. Athletes eat with the intention of fueling their body so it can perform at its peak! This doesn't happen without a little meal planning and preparation in their week. You, too, can start to enjoy more balanced meals and snacks by setting aside just 10 minutes every week to create a healthy grocery list. This will help you avoid impulse buying junk food that leaves you feeling sluggish.
  4. Keep the carbs. Carbohydrates provide an important source of energy for our bodies that Olympians rarely skip. Remember, carbs include a variety of foods and aren't limited to just bread and pasta. Start small by having your favorite fruit as a snack, substituting beans for meat on "Meatless Mondays," or grilling up some fruit and veggie skewers the next time you cook out.
  5. Eat smart after exercise. It's way too easy to eat back all the calories you worked hard to burn in boot camp. Think ahead by preparing a post-workout snack if your exercise lasts longer than 60 minutes or if it'll be a while until your next meal. A small snack with lean protein and carbohydrates will replenish your muscles and satisfy your taste buds. Try a low-fat yogurt with fresh berries, an apple with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, or dried fruit with ¼ cup of your favorite unsalted nuts. 

About the Series

Healthy Helpings is an ongoing series of sound information and inspiration for a healthier lifestyle. Look here for fresh recipes, fitness tips and more bite-sized advice on maintaining a better balance in life—from your friends at the Y.

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