Nutrition is an important yet often one of the most overlooked parts of athletic preparation. It is a vast topic that is hard to cover in just one page, so for those interested in learning more I'd strongly recommend reading further into the topic.
For long term success with nutrition whether you are an professional athlete or average joe, developing good dietary habits that can be maintained is the key - an example of a good list of habits is the 10 habits mentioned by Eric Cressey in his best-selling book Maximum Strength, which I have adapated below:
Eat a complete lean protein source at every meal
Protein helps the body build and maintain muscle tissue, is a highly thermogenic macronutritent (the body burns more calories digesting protein than it does digesting carbohydrates and fats) and also provides the greatest satiety of the 3 macronutrients.
It is generally recommended that athletes who partake in high intensity sports and training sessions on a regular basis consume 1.5-2g of protein per kg of bodyweight.
Examples of lean complete sources of protein include:
Lean Cuts of Meat
Lean Minced Meat
Low Fat Dairy such as milk, yoghurt and cottage cheese
Eat vegetables and/or fruits with every meal
Fruits and vegetables provide slow burning (low GI) carbohydrate energy and are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre, which have a large number. A diet rich in fruit and vegetables has a wide range of health and disease preventing benefits. It is recommened that you consume at least 5 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit per day.
Eat healthy fats
There are 3 basic types of fats: saturated fats, monounaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Ideal consumption is a 1:1:1 ratio of the three, however most people consume them in a ratio closer to 4:1:1.
Saturated fats have been painted in a bad light by the media with regards to raising cholesterol levels, but they are important for many body functions such as the production of testosterone and fine when they come from real whole foods such as whole eggs, non processed meat and dairy products and cocunut oil. The problem is when they are coming from french fries, potato chips and other junk foods, which are foods which should be avoided in general.
Polyunsaturated fats can be founds in fish, walnuts, flax seeds and safflower oil. The most well known and important of the polyunsaturated fats are the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA which are both essential fatty acids (EFA) i.e. they aren't produced in the body so you have to consume them via diet.
Monounsaturated fat can be found in foods such as extra virgin olive oil, avocado and nuts such as almonds, cashews and peanuts.
Trans fats, are an artificial unsaturated fat that are chemically altered (added hydrogen atoms) to make them more saturated as to increase melting point, making them better for baking and giving them a longer shelf life. These are a type of fat that you should avoid completely from the diet as they have been strongly linked to increase risk of heart diesease - they are most often found in junk and processed foods.
Don't drink empty calories if you want to lose weight
Avoid any high sugar beverages including soft drinks, energy drinks and fruit juices if you want to drop weight - the calories add up and they don't satisfy hunger. Stick to water and unsweetened teas for best results.
Eat whole foods over nutritional supplements whenever possible
That is meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruits and nuts primarily.
That said nutritional supplemental foods such as protein powders and protein bars still have their purpose in every diet - I mean who has the time to prepare whole foods at every possible meal, they aren't always portable for people who are regularly on the go and whole foods aren't always ideal to consume i.e. when you want a quick meal half an hour before training a protein shake or bar and banana is much more preferable than a plate of steak and vegetables.
Be wary that there are many nutritional supplements out there and apart from protein supplements, the only supplements I would recommend taking are those with proven claims such as:
I would advise taking a multivitamin if you find it difficult to consume enough quantity and variety of vegetables and fruits on a daily basis (5+ servings of vegetables and 2+ servings of fruit).
I would recommend Optimum Nutrition's OptiMen
I would advise taking fish oil capsules or liquid daily unless you eat fatty fish like herring, trout, sardines or salmon on a daily basis.
I would recommend Kirkland's Signature Nature Fish Oil Concentrate Softgels
I would advise taking creatine if you do not eat red meat.
I would recommend Optimum Nutrition's Micronised Creatine Powder
Eat a wide variety of different foods
Every type of whole food provides a different and unique nutrient profile so it goes without saying you should consume a wide variety as possible to cover all bases.
Follow the above guidelines 90% or more of the time
So if you have 42 meals a week, you want to be following these guidelines for 38 or more of those meals.
For further reading into the topic of nutrition I would recommend the following resources:
Should I Eat The Yolk? by Jamie Hale
Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle by Tom Venuto
Girth Control by Alan Aragon
For recipe ideas check out:
Men's Health Muscle Chow by Greg Aveddon
Gourmet Nutrition by John Berardi