Many athletes maintain a full-time training and competition load while also engaging in school, university or work.
This juggling act can make the practical applications of key performance nutrition principals difficult, including financially.
Healthy eating for effective fuelling and recovery definitely can be expensive, but it does not need be. Below are our top tips for eating well on a budget:
1. Be sale-savvy and buy in bulk
More often than not, food items are cheaper when bought in bulk. Then when these bulk items are on sale, they are even cheaper. While this may involve a greater investment at time of purchase, it will save money over time.
For example, per 100g, a bag of rolled oats is significantly cheaper than oats sachets. In some circumstances, the quick sachets cost up to 5x more than regular rolled oats.
2. Cook in bulk
Cooking meals in bulk saves both time and money. It directly saves time as you obviously spend less time preparing meals, but it can also indirectly reduce cost by increasing availability of nutritious options. Being time-poor is a common occurrence for athletes. This lack of time can lead to less nutritious but often more convenient food options (e.g. fast food) that does not necessarily support optimal fuelling or recovery.
3. Buy fresh produce as per their season
Fruit and vegetables are normally cheaper when they are naturally at their prime. Buying them as per the season is a win-win situation, as not only does it save money but it also encourages nutrient diversity. Different types of fruit and vegetables are rich in different types of important nutrients, so eating a variety of them equates to a more diverse range of nutrients consumed.
4. Frozen fruit and vegetables make for great back-up options
While frozen produce may not be as tasty as fresh produce, they can make a great top-up or substitution when fresh is running low. Mixing up frozen with fresh produce can be cost-effective but can also help to avoid flavour fatigue that may come with eating the same thing all the time. Frozen fruit and vegetables also work very well in smoothies.
5. Plan ahead
Preparation is a major key to success with nutrition. Most athletes know that forgetting to pack your shoes or training attire for a training session is an example of poor preparation that will lead to a sub-optimal training session. Food and nutrition should be considered in the same way.
Set aside some time to plan your meals and snacks for the week. From this, write a grocery list. This list will help to avoid wandering the supermarket aisles and choosing a random selection of foods, which can inevitably result in greater food wastage (and money wastage).
Hot tip: avoid shopping when you are really hungry, as hungry shopping can lead to unnecessary purchases.
6. Homemade > eating out
In the majority of cases, eating out/ordering take-away will cost more money than if you made the meal at home. Therefore, reducing the frequency of eating out/take-away occasions will save you money. Use the above tips when considering homemade meals.
Some of our favourite nutritious and relatively cheap food items for athletes are listed below:
- Rolled oats
- Grainy bread (store in freezer to avoid it going off before you can finish it)
- Frozen vegetables
- Frozen fruit
- Tinned vegetables (e.g. 4 bean mix, lentils)
- Tinned fish