The Mediterranean Diet for Athletes

the mediterranean diet
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It’s not just a fad, the Mediterranean diet is becoming the highlight of every health and fitness sites and blogs on the internet now. You must’ve noticed it too! Almost every 5 years or so a new diet routine comes along with a fancy name and a lot of promises, but most of them come and go leaving people with just so and so results. The truth is we already knew the real diet plan that really works! It dates back to the 1950s when a study called the Seven Countries Study, which included 12,763 men in four different regions of the world and the evidence was conclusive – that those men who live around the Mediterranean Sea were found to have better well-being than the other subjects (these test subjects all had healthy lifestyles as per the requirements). 

Unlike other diet fads the Mediterranean diet’s main goal is to not put any restrictions on the food you eat, but to completely change it to something that will give you 90% more nutrients and 10% calories. So you won’t have to have “guilty pleasures” or “cheat days” when it comes to your food, because now every bite you take is going to be a healthy one.

Today, the Mediterranean diet or lifestyle is still popular among fitness enthusiasts and medical professionals. If you’re an athlete and you want to utilize a diet plan to improve your overall muscle mass, then keep reading in order to find out.

You Get the Much Needed Protein for your Muscles from the Mediterranean Diet

Athletes need lean muscles to be able to perform well in their respective sports and if you’ve previously ascribed proteins from non-Med diet sources, then it’s time to change that. You’re going to have to cut back on red meat and eat fish/seafood or poultry as your new source of protein. Health professionals recommend that you make 20% of your daily diet from protein-rich foods as this helps build your muscle mass.

According to the board-certified specialist in sports nutrition and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in Pittsburgh, PA., Heather R. Mangieri, R.D., C.S.S.D., you must never add or increase the amount of red meat you eat just to increase the amount of protein in your diet, while following the Mediterranean diet (keep in mind that this diet promotes plant-based foods). 

Instead follow what is instructed in the Mediterranean diet on how to get protein in your diet by consuming foods such as poultry, fish, yogurt, cheese, and eggs. In order to meet the daily protein requirements, eat about 25 – 30 grams of protein-rich foods and spread it across 6 meals throughout the day. With the variety of fruits, vegetables, white meat and other seafood your meal will be a combination of proteins, healthy carbohydrates, and some healthy fats. 

Good fats that are found in nuts, seeds, and oils (both polyunsaturated like omega-3 and monounsaturated like the ones found in olive oils) make you feel full even if you haven’t eaten that much (it can help in your aim to lose weight). But there’s a catch, because the Mediterranean diet does not clearly say how much you should eat these healthy fats each day and if left unchecked, you could be eating more calories than the health benefits you thought you were getting from them.

How to Consume Healthy Fats Properly

Eat nuts that have polyunsaturated fat like almonds, pistachios, and walnuts. Pistachios are known to have a good amount of healthy fats minus the calories. In fact, just by eating 49 pieces of these nuts will give you 6 grams of protein and a meager 160 calories for energy. This means that eating pistachios will keep you fit even if you consume them in excess of what is normally recommended (but the excess should be on the low side also). In a 2011 preliminary behavioral study in appetite, scientists discovered that pistachios help keep you mindful about consuming healthy fats. They called this unusual effect the “pistachio principle,” where test subjects who snacked on pistachios and left discarded shells in front of them all day consumed 18% less than those who did not left any shells between intervals of eating.

Always Prefer Quality Foods

It’s a good thing that you don’t need to think about choosing fresh ingredients to prepare your Mediterranean food, because quality fresh foods is what the Mediterranean diet is all about. Remember that the Mediterranean diet is mostly plant-based food? So all the ingredients that you’ll buy should be farm-fresh. For instance, when you select fish to consume in order to get protein, omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients, do not favor the tilapia for its taste as it is high in bad cholesterol. Instead, choose the nutrient-dense fillet of wild Alaskan salmon, which can taste just as good, if not greater than the tilapia if prepared properly.

Keep in mind that this is the Mediterranean diet and you have a whole arsenal of herbs and spices in your cupboard to choose from in order to make a great wild Alaskan salmon fillet. Always use fresh extra-virgin olive oil when cooking the fish and don’t be shy to use spices such as paprika, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon and coriander, which have antioxidant properties. 

Why you Need to Stick with the Mediterranean Diet

Following diet trends can ruin your plans to lose weight and get into shape plus it will also put a strain on your wallet. You may find yourself forking over cash for a book that offers meal plans that’s supposed to make you healthy and fit, but over the course of the book you realize how complicated and convoluted they are that they will make you skip over nutrient-dense foods, which can make you undernourished in the process.

The Mediterranean diet, however, has been proven over thousands of years by multiple cultures all over the Mediterranean shores. People who adhere to this lifestyle enjoy a prolonged life that rivals those healthy elderly people in Japan. The most amazing thing is that this prolonged lifestyle is evident in the majority of the population in the Mediterranean region. Based on this assessment we can deduce that the Mediterranean diet is the best diet program for a healthy and fit body.

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