Simple Ways to Eat Healthier as a Gymnast

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Nutrition for Gymnastics

Teenage Gymnast
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You're a gymnast, and you're dedicated to being the best you can be in the sport. You work hard in the gym, you do conditioning, and you might even do mental training.

But don't forget about eating healthy foods too. Making a few simple changes can give you more energy at practice, help your muscles recover better after training, and even help prevent injuries.

It's not as hard as you may think either: Try one of these tweaks to your nutrition each week or each month, and soon you'll have overhauled your eating for the better.

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Eat More Healthy Fats

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We know that as an athlete, the word "fat" may be a scary one to you. But it shouldn't be. Your body needs fat, and will actually perform better if it gets the fat it needs! Eating fat will not make you fatter, either. In fact, eating the right fat helps burn fat cells on your body.

There's a big difference between healthy and unhealthy fans, though:

What's healthy: Unsaturated fats. These are found in plant-based foods and fish. Good choices: Avocados, nuts, seeds, and fish like salmon and trout.

What's not: Saturated and trans fats. These are found in animal products and processed foods like crackers and chips.

So, pledge to add more of those healthy fats into your meals. Sprinkle chopped walnuts on your salad, and finally try salmon. Don't beat yourself up when you eat a cheeseburger, though. It's OK!

See: The 5 Best Post-Workout Snacks for Gymnasts

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Cut Out Soda -- Slowly if You Have To

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This might be a hard one, since studies have indicated that soda might literally be addictive. But, whether you're drinking diet soda or regular soda, there's nothing redeeming in your drink. Both are full of chemicals and sweeteners, some natural -- and most artificial.

Sodas give you a very quick energy burst but then you'll quickly crash. So stop putting these chemicals in your body. If you're an avid soda drinker, cut out a soda a week until you're off them completely.  If you feel like you need the caffeine fix, coffee and tea are better options. Both have health benefits, unlike soda.

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Eat Organic Foods

Fruits and veggies
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 We know organic foods are often more expensive, but organic foods have to meet strict requirements in how they're made. They can't contain pesticides and GMOs -- which are both worth avoiding when possible. And many studies have shown organic food to be more nutritious than non-organic.

It's often not practical to eat solely organic food, but a good place to start is to switch to organic when eating The Dirty Dozen -- a list of fruits and veggies found by the Environmental Working Group, to have the highest amount of pesticides in them.

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Drink More Water

Water in a Glass
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Even a little bit of dehydration has been linked to decreased performance and an increase in tiredness, muscle fatigue and headaches. So drink water before, during and after practice, and throughout the day as well.

You don't need to gulp it down -- that can actually increase stomachaches and there's research that shows that a big quantity all at once is not as effective at hydrating your body. Instead, aim to drink several swigs from a water bottle each rotation in your practice -- and more after doing whole routines or conditioning and cardio work.

On the way home from the gym, try to drink a full cup of water during the 30 minutes or so after practice is over. (Remember, this doesn't have to be a full water bottle -- most water bottles are 12 or even 16 or 20 oz.).


More Gymnastics:
Why Gymnastics is the Hardest Sport
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