Athlete Nutrition 101

Surprisingly, two of the most common diet goals for athletes happen to be inherently contradictory. While many athletes seek to maintain or even increase muscle mass, others seek to lose weight. According to new research at Oregon State University, a high-fiber and low-fat diet is imperative in order to to maintain muscle and burn fat.

The research was led by Professor Melinda M. Manore, who works in the School of Biological and Population Health Science and specializes in nutrition.

One of Manore's main concerns in the study was the influence of fad diets on athletes. However, losing weight or gaining muscle is hard to achieve when following an extreme nutrition regiment. Says Manore, "[Following a fad diet] also means they don't have the energy to exercise, or they feel tired and put themselves as risk of injury."

To help athletes gain a better sense of where their weight should be, Manore suggested the following benchmarks. A person's weight should be appropriate for age and gender, consider genetic history, and not cause any health risks. Moreover and perhaps most importantly, the weight should be easily maintainable.

Manore recommends that athletes follow a "low-energy-dense diet." Sounds complicated, but actually follows most generic and healthy eating recommendations: eating lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, fish, and lean meat, while avoiding sugary drinks and processed products.

Protein intake is important right after exercise, to refuel muscles, as well as throughout the day, for balanced consumption. And while breakfast continues to be a source of debate when it comes to maintain a healthy physique, Manore is decidedly team breakfast — so long as there are no processed cereals involved.