Almonds can play an important role in maintaining a healthy diet and assisting with sports recovery.
Almonds as part of a healthy diet
A balanced diet will help to keep you firing both inside and outside the training and competition environment. Make sure you include plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, wholegrain breads and cereals, legumes, nuts, lean meat/chicken/fish, eggs and dairy foods. Try not to over-do foods that are high in fat/sugar or overly processed, as these can leave you feeling flat and fatigued and won’t help you meet your need for vitamins and minerals.
Recovery after sport and exercise
During the first hour after a game or training session, athletes should aim to consume a source of carbohydrate to replace the energy used during the activity, and a source of protein to help repair the muscle damage during the activity and to make muscles stronger. This can be part of your everyday meal plan e.g. a planned snack if your next meal is not within an hour or your next meal.
Longer term recovery takes place during the 24hr following an exercise session and includes all of your meals and snacks. The aim of this is to ensure enough energy, carbohydrate and protein as well as micronutrients, to meet your requirements for both health and your sport.
Fluid Needs for Recovery
Good hydration is essential for sustained performance. Athletes should start training/games hydrated and replace their losses by drinking at each break time and in the hours after exercise. Keep an eye on urine volume and colour – producing a small volume of dark coloured urine is a sign of poor hydration. As a general guide, at least 2-3 litres per day should be consumed. On hot days, fluid losses are often high at training and during training, therefore athletes may need to drink more.
Including Almonds as part of Recovery
Examples of almonds in recovery snacks:
- Trail mix with dry roasted almonds
- Yoghurt with chopped almonds
- Homemade muesli bar with almonds and dried fruit
- Nut bar
- low fat apple and almond muffin
Examples of Almonds in recovery meals:
- Bircher muesli with toasted almonds
- Yoghurt with berries and chopped almonds or LSA mix
- Breakfast cereal with chopped almonds and low fat milk
- Leftover chicken and almond stir fry with noodles
- Sandwich with lean meat and salad plus a small tin almonds
- Pasta with vegetables, pesto and toasted almond slivers
- Chicken salad sprinkled with toasted almonds
- Grilled steak or chicken with stir fried vegetables with almonds
- Chicken and almonds with noodles
- Red chicken, vegetable and almond curry with rice
- Pasta with crumbs, chilli and almonds
Recovery during competition
Many sports hold events where athletes are required to compete multiple times each day. During these events, all athletes should consume plenty of fluid – water and sports drinks (such as Gatorade) are good options. Regular snacks between events will also aid recovery. Including almonds in these snacks will help athletes feel satisfied.
Other Nutrition Tips
- Athletes need to be organised and carry snacks and fluids with them all the time, as food available at training/playing venues may not always be appropriate for recovery/tournaments. Almonds are a perfect choice! Try mixed with dried fruit, added to fruit muffins, or simply on their own with a piece of fruit.
- Young athletes at school need to pack portable snacks and meals to have after training, especially on a long drive home. Almonds can be added to all snacks to provide a portable, safe way of incorporating a source of protein that doesn’t need to be refrigerated.
- Competition times may vary greatly in some cases and may finish late in the evening – so planning for adequate meals and snacks before and after is essential. Sometimes it may be that the main meal is better at lunchtime or mid-afternoon.
Author: Kerry Leech, Accredited Sports Dietitian, Sports Dietitians Australia