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Eat and Train Like a World-Class Athlete

All eyes are on the “super-athletes” this summer! These athletes have trained for years to reach their peak levels of physical fitness. Even if a gold medal isn’t your own personal goal, you can capitalize on the training plans of successful athletes. Learning to eat and train like a gold-medal athlete will help you smash through your next fitness challenge!

Push Your Limits

Performing dozens of bicep curls at a low to medium weight isn’t going to get you to your peak fitness goals. High-achieving athletes know that lifting heavy is the best way to achieve greater strength and muscle performance. Instead of performing low weight, high rep exercises, focus on lifting the maximum your body can safely handle. Aim for two or three sets of just four to six reps. Your muscles should be very fatigued after this form of workout.

Don’t Forget About Warming Up and Cooling Down

When you’re an elite athlete, your specific training drills are only half the battle. Warming up and cooling down are equally important to the actual athletic work you do during your workout. Rather than static stretching (e.g., touching your toes), engage in dynamic warm-ups such as reverse lunges or jumping rope. After you work out, pamper your muscles. To help your body stay in peak shape, you can use a foam roller to release knots in your fascia, as well as try therapeutic massage, stretching and flexibility exercises.

Focus on Sleep

When you’re a serious athlete, every minute of the day counts — even the minutes you spend sleeping. Elite athletes engage in hard training that requires them to sleep 8 to 10 hours per night. Ideally, you should aim for a bedtime of 10 to 11:00 p.m., which corresponds to your release of sleep hormones. Avoid watching TV, looking at your phone, or using other electronic devices for at least 30 minutes before bedtime to help your body get to sleep.

Emphasize Healthy Eating

When you’re spending a few hours per day in the gym, you need the nutrition to match. Elite athletes focus intensely on fueling their bodies with only the highest quality foods. There is no specific diet plan for athletes who make it to the top of their sports — each athlete must consider his or her sport to determine the ideal ratio of carbohydrates, protein and fat. However, all of these athletes prioritize whole foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, tofu and whole grain products. That means no more chowing down late-night nachos or ordering a pizza when you’re not feeling up to cooking.

Also remember to stay well hydrated. Drink plenty of plain water to replenish your electrolytes after a workout. This will keep your tissues healthy. Take your body weight, divide by two and aim to drink that many ounces of water each day. You can also drink a protein shake within 90 minutes of working out to promote hydration and healthy tissue repair.

Be inspired by the top athletes you admire! Let that inspiration motivate you to take on a new fitness or health goal. If you have any additional questions about diet or exercise, talk to a healthcare professional.