As an athlete, getting in tune with and listening to your body can go a long way toward maintaining a healthy lifestyle, both in and out of the sporting arena.

While everyone is different and each individual system has different needs, sports nutrition really hasn’t changed much in the past 50 years. A clean, varied diet makes for an efficient body, and I have found that my body is my greatest director when it comes to the nutrients it needs and when it needs them.

Maybe it is time to stop counting calories and start looking at the nutritional density of what you are eating. Nutrient dense foods give 
you the best bang for your buck. Consuming a concentrated amount of vitamins, minerals, fibre, essential fatty acids and protein provides the body with the fuel it needs.

Is protein intake going to help you recover from a tough training session or is the processed sugar in a health bar going to cause inflammation? The protein in quinoa helps an athlete recover faster and provides more nutritional density than a chocolate protein bar, which has so much processed sugar that it causes inflammation and weight gain — not to mention other associated serious health risks.

There are so many sugar-based products in the marketplace that are promoted as being beneficial for athletes. While these might give you an instant energy boost, they are lacking in nutrient density and may end up damaging your athletic endeavors long term.

If you want to try something new, start feeding your body organic wholefoods instead. I have compiled a short list of pre-workout food options and snacks on my website for anyone who would like to try them. On this list, I have included the nutritional density each of these foods contains.

When it comes to workouts, athletes wanting to get the most out of these sessions need to combine exercise with a moderate carbohydrate diet that is high in fibre. Here are some options that are my preference:

Beetroot juice: Rather than drinking sugar-filled Gatorade, try beet juice. Beets are rich in nitrates, which help increase oxygen delivery to the muscles by improving blood flow. You could add Kronobar’s beetroot powder to your water bottle or include it in your morning smoothie.

Sweet potatoes (yams): Many people don’t associate potatoes with sports nutrition, but sweet potatoes are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates that are loaded with Vitamins A and C and beta-carotene. They are also high in magnesium and potassium, which helps reduce cramping and prevents muscle spasms.

Oatmeal with seeds: Oats are one of the best complex carbohydrates that help promote long-lasting energy. They also contain iron, which keeps your muscles happy. I add fruit such
as blueberries or bananas for an additional burst of energy. Adding chia or hemp seeds to your oatmeal will also give you a protein boost, a solid fibre intake and a healthy source of essential fatty acids.

Ancient grain toast with avocadoAncient grains such as spelt, buckwheat and kamut provide the body with healthy fats, proteins and carbohydrates. They are also easy to digest and provide sufficient amounts of fibre. White bread is like eating empty calories — there is nothing to gain from it except weight.

Adding avocados to meals is another source of healthy fats that help the body absorb vitamins and minerals. They also contain high levels of antioxidants and fibre that aide in maintaining the electrolyte balance in the body.

All the food we consume impacts our wellbeing. It either helps increase our energy and strength, or depletes it. I am always aware of what I am consuming on a daily basis to ensure that I have a healthy, balanced diet that encompasses many various food sources.

Meagan Duhamel is a two-time World pairs champion with Eric Radford. You will find recipes, personal health tips and much more on her website at lutzofgreens.com.