1. CAN’T TOUCH THIS
Top performing athletes know that nutrition is king when it comes to gaining an edge over their competitors. However, no matter what your goal is—carving out your six-pack, increasing your stamina—the gateway to success lies on your plate. An athlete’s diet is more than just calories in and calories out—it’s fuel. The right foods increase your energy, promote muscle growth, and aid in muscle repair. The wrong ones set you back. When it comes to chowing down, there are certain eats a serious athlete just won’t touch
2. DIET SODA
Athletes see each meal as an opportunity to refuel—How much protein can I fit into this meal? How can I add more good fats? —because it’s what drives their performance. Nutritionally void foods like artificial sweeteners have no place in their diet. Not only do they offer no health benefits, but consuming artificially sweetened foods like a can of diet soda per day could significantly increase your risk for health problems and weight gain, says a study out of Purdue University. Artificial sweeteners trick the body into thinking it’s consuming real food, and because they’re over a hundred times sweeter than the real thing, your body starts producing insulin (the fat storage hormone). You’re better off consuming the real stuff in moderation.
3. CANNED SOUP
Canned soup might be convenient, but most of the time they’re no healthier for you than other highly processed snacks–their long shelf life should tip you off. “Some soups are so processed and high in sodium that it trumps over the health benefits. I would opt for low-sodium or homemade instead,” says Jim White, RD. The body needs sodium to function properly, but too much can lead to high blood pressure.
4. RICE CAKES
Rice cakes have long held a “healthy” reputation, but the staple diet snack is practically empty—nutritionally speaking. Yes, they do boast a low calorie count, but athletes need calories to keep their energy levels up. Not to mention these crunchy little snacks will send your blood sugar soaring. Rice cakes can have a glycemic index as high as 91, not far off from pure glucose, which has an index of 100. For better carbs, grab an English muffin or some fruit instead, suggests White.
5. SUGARY CEREAL
Artificial sugar is a definite no, but chowing down on too much of the real thing is just as bad. While active guys can afford to take in more calories than the average man, it doesn’t mean they’re scarfing down sugary foods on the daily. No athlete gets to the top of his game, and stays there, by starting his day off with a big bowl of oat cereal and marshmallows. Too much sugar also causes a spike in insulin, priming your body to store more fat.