5 Diet Mistakes That Derail Your Workouts

Your diet may be the missing link in your training plan. Here are some common nutrition mistakes that many athletes and exercise enthusiasts make that can negatively affect performance. (Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered with the solutions, too!)
#1: You Eat Too Little (or Too Much) Protein
Some athletes eat too little protein; others eat too much. Too little protein and your muscles can’t recover, repair and strengthen properly from hard training. Too much protein taxes your kidneys, leads to an excessive calorie intake (which can result in excess body fat), or replaces the other equally important foods and nutrients that are needed for optimal performance.
Solution:  Determine your daily protein needs (here's how) and develop the meal plans that will deliver the appropriate amount for your exercise level. And remember: Don't overdo it on the protein shakes, either. Not every athlete really needs these supplements, and they can contribute to excessive protein intake. Get the scoop on protein powder here.

#2:  You're Skimping on Iron
Iron deficiency causes needless fatigue and reduced performance and is particularly common among women who have heavy periods, participate in endurance events, and rarely or never eat red meat or iron-enriched foods (like breakfast cereals).

Solution: If you feel needlessly tired, get your blood tested by your doctor, and be sure to get your serum ferritin measured. Don’t take an iron supplement without confirmation of low iron or advice from your doctor.   
To help prevent anemia, strive to eat an iron-rich diet featuring:
  • Beef, pork, lamb, dark-meat chicken or turkey, salmon and tuna
  • Beans (black, kidney, garbanzo, navy, great Northern, etc.)
  • Iron-fortified cereals and iron-fortified whole grain breads, pasta and brown rice
To enhance iron absorption, have a vitamin-C rich food at every meal such as orange juice, berries, kiwi, broccoli, tomato, potato and sweet bell peppers.
#3:  You Don't Have Time to Eat after Working Out
At the end of a hard workout, remember that you haven't finished your training until you have refueled. Ideally, this should happen within the 30 minutes to 2 hours after your workout ends. Don't rush off to work or school, using the "no time to eat" excuse.

Solution: Plan ahead so you have recovery foods readily available. Even in a time crunch, you should be able to refuel your muscles properly. Post-workout nutrition doesn't have to be complicated. Think yogurt-fruit smoothie, a large glass of chocolate milk, or English muffin with peanut butter. "No time" is no excuse.
#4: You Skimp on Carbs
Recovery foods should offer a foundation of carbohydrates with protein as the accompaniment—not the other way around. The complete package is needed. You need to fill those glycogen (energy) stores with carbohydrates to fuel future workouts and repair your hard-working muscles with a little protein. One or the other won't cut it.
Solution:  A reasonable target is to consume about 180-240 calories of carbohydrates (45-60 grams) and about 65-80 calories (15-20 grams) of protein after a high-intensity workout. Standard food fare works fine (no shakes, supplements or specialty bars needed). Some popular choices include Greek yogurt with fruit and honey, pasta with meat sauce, or chicken and veggies over rice. Get more post-workout snack ideas here.

#5: You're Not Drinking Enough
To train harder and perform better, you need to stay well-hydrated. Losing just one percent of your body weight in sweat causes your heart to beat three to five more times per minute, thus creating even more fatigue during your workout or event.

Solution: If you are well-hydrated, you will need to urinate every two to four hours, and your urine will be a light color. If you sweat heavily, you need to learn how much fluid you lose (and thereby need to replace) during a workout. Do this by weighing yourself naked before and after exercise. For each pound lost, you should drink at least 16 to 24 ounces of fluid. Be sure to drink adequately all day, not just during or after your workouts. Could you need a sports drink? Find out!
Are you guilty of any of these diet mistakes? What nutrition lessons have you learned the hard way?
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Member Comments

The important thing is to be mindful, SparkFriends and educate yourselves. Thank you for the information. Report
You. Do. Not. Need. To. "Refuel". After. A. Workout! Not if you're working out to lose weight! The only "refueling" you need is consumption of regular, portion-controlle
d, healthy MEALS, i.e., breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you're trying to lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit; pre- and post-workout snacking will ABSOLUTELY derail your progress.

The only exception to this is if you're an athlete in peak physical condition who's undergoing a heavy training regimen, or possibly if you're trying to build significant muscle. Report
I have always run anemic. It is so important, as the article states, to keep your blood work current to make sure your iron is at appropriate levels. Report
Be careful with the iron. Women who have passed menopause do not need added iron. Taking extra after menopause can negatively impact your health. Report
Great information! Report
I have used many excuses myself Report
Thank you for sharing. Report
GREAT Report
Great information
Great information! Report
Great article! Report
Great information Report
I enjoyed this article and I always refer back to this when I start making excuses. Report
Thankmyou Report
Thank you! I see a couple of my troubled areas. Great article! Report


About The Author

Becky Hand
Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.