This is the first of many articles on sports nutrition topics to be featured on The Real Athlete Blog and we will start with a focus on basic fueling strategies.

We all know that superior athletic ability comes from a combination of genetics and training; however, without good food choices and the correct timing of meals, training and performance will suffer. As an elite athlete you need a fueling plan that includes the right balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat, enough vitamins and minerals, and the correct amount of fluid.

Here are 5 basic food and fluid strategies to help you put a fueling plan together.

1. Eat breakfast every morning. Glycogen stores can be low in the morning, so you need to refuel your body to replace the energy it used while you slept. One of the most important things an athlete can do to maximize performance is to eat a good breakfast. Some breakfast foods you might enjoy are a fruit and yogurt smoothie, breakfast sandwich with egg whites and low-fat cheese, whole grain waffle with almond butter, and oatmeal with skim milk and fruit.

2. Eat a meal three or four hours before a practice, workout or competition. Choose foods with lots of carbohydrates, such as rice, pasta, potatoes, yogurt, fruit smoothies, vegetables, fruits, crackers, and whole grain breads and rolls. Watch your fat intake. Meals should be 2/3 carbohydrate and 1/3 protein.

3. Eat a snack one hour before a practice, workout or a game that is carbohydrate-based to help top off glycogen stores. Have an energy bar, banana, bagel or some graham crackers. Wash your snack down with 12 ounces of a sport drink.

4. Hydrate. During breaks, halftime or time-outs drink water or your favorite sport drink. Both
water and sports drinks will hydrate you, but a sports drink will give you fuel and electrolytes to help replace sodium that you lose in sweat. Sports drinks also help keep glycogen stores topped off. Sports drinks are recommended when workouts, practices or competitions last longer than 60 minutes. Weigh yourself before and after workouts and competitions to try to figure out your own personal sweat rate. Drink 2-3 cups of sports drink or water for every pound of body weight lost.

5. Recover. Eat something within 30 minutes of the end of your practice, workout or game. This is really important to do if you train hard every day. Muscle glycogen is the primary fuel for energy during exercise and carbohydrate is the primary source of muscle glycogen. A good recovery snack should have carbohydrate and protein value. Low-fat chocolate milk is an ideal recovery drink. It provides just the right amount of carbohydrates and protein and it's cheap and accessible! Other ideas for recovery snacks include a soft pretzel with 100% fruit juice or peanut butter crackers with fresh fruit.

Use these basic tips to respect nutrition as an integral part of your training regimen and you will be well on the way to reaching your athletic potential!