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Comfort foods are usually associated with warm, rich, butter filled goodness. Certainly foods like homemade macaroni and cheese, fettuccine Alfredo and cheesy lasagna have a place in the athletes diet. The key is not whether or not to have them, it is WHEN. Timing is everything!
When it comes to fueling athletes, it is vital to time our food intake to be sure our muscles have adequate fuel when needed for performance. Higher fat meals (often those comfort foods we crave when it gets cold) delay the absorption of high energy carbohydrates, making immediate energy slow to get into working muscles. A diet high in fat can also limit the room in our bellies for high vitamin and mineral foods like vegetables and fruits.
So when is the best time to eat these comfort foods? It may sound funny but one of the best times to eat higher fat comfort foods is in the morning or even at lunch. This allows for plenty of digestion time before your afternoon practice or game. 3-4 hours may be necessary to digest higher fat comfort foods such as pot roast with mashed potatoes and gravy. Be sure you pick and choose your absolute favorites and distribute them among other balanced high nutrition meals.
Another time to eat a comfort filled meal is post game when energy stores may be lower than usual. Try to pick foods that are highest on your list of favs and not just because everyone else is eating them.
Can we create “healthier” versions of our favorite high fat comfort foods? The short answer is yes. Use our Pinterest page to find recipes that create lower fat versions of your favorites. Or just commit to eating your favorite comfort foods “as is” in a slow and mindful manner. Take your time and check in with your belly to see when you feel satisfied. If you eat slowly you may find that it takes less food to create satisfaction.
Remember it is the timing of your intake (food) that will make or break your performance so be sure to allow plenty of time for higher fat meals to digest before expecting the energy to be ready for use. Eat, drink and WIN!!