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Understanding Athlete Nutrition

Understanding Athlete Nutrition
January 25, 2022 | Andre Harakas | 7 min read

Let’s talk about athlete nutrition. Every athlete aspires for a competitive advantage. A complete food regimen that meets these physical demands is required for daily training and recuperation. The basics to achieving optimal dietary performance to support your training and competition are discussed here.

Energy from food

Athletes have higher energy requirements than the normal individual. Male and female athletes with caloric demands surpassing 2,400-3,000 kcal and 2,200-2,700 kcal per day are very unusual, particularly for those still developing. The quantity of energy in a particular meal is determined by its macronutrient (carbohydrate, protein, and fat) concentration.

Energy content > macronutrient

Carbohydrates with a calorie content of more than 4 per gram >4 kcal/gram protein

Alcohol* has a calorie content of more than 7 per gram.

* Fat has a calorie density of more than 9 per gram.

Although alcohol is not classified as a macronutrient, athletes should be aware that it contains more calories and may lead to unwanted weight gain.

Carbohydrates are the principal source of energy during high-intensity exercises. Fruits, vegetables, whole-grain cereals, breads, and pastas are all good sources of carbohydrates.

Dietary fat is also important for helping people achieve their energy demands and maintaining appropriate hormone levels. Nuts, nut butters, avocados, olive and coconut oils are all good sources of fat. Vegetable oils such as maize, cottonseed, and soybean oil should be used sparingly.

Muscle repair and development are aided by dietary protein. Lean meats, eggs, dairy (yogurt, milk, cottage cheese), and legumes are all good sources of protein.

Tips on how to get the most out of your sports nutrition

Make it a point to consume a variety of fruits and vegetables on a regular basis. The objective is to consume at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day, with a variety of colors. A single serving is about the size of a baseball. Fruits and vegetables provide the required energy and nutrients for exercise and recuperation. Furthermore, these antioxidant-rich meals will aid in the prevention of disease such as a cold or the flu.

As a power-packed energy source, choose whole grain carbs such as whole-wheat bread or pasta, as well as fiber-rich cereals. Refined carbohydrates and sugars, such as sugary cereals, white breads, and bagels, should be avoided. Whole-grain items will provide you with greater benefits.

Chicken, turkey, salmon, peanut butter, eggs, almonds, and legumes are all good sources of protein.

Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, since even a two percent loss in hydration may have a detrimental influence on performance. Milk, water, 100% fruit juice, and sports drinks are all options. However, keep in mind that sports drinks and 100% fruit juice have a greater total sugar level and, in the case of fruit juice, lack many of the health advantages found in entire foods. Also, don’t mix sports drinks like Gatorade with “energy” drinks like Red Bull and other comparable beverages.

As much as possible, choose whole food selections over highly processed ones.

Putting together a healthy lunch

You will struggle to meet your performance objectives if you do not consume enough calories from the healthiest dietary sources. Choose at least one item from each category to create a healthful dinner.


  • Fruits/Oatmeal
  • Sweet/white potatoes, squash, and other starchy veggies
  • Veggies that aren’t starchy (broccoli, leafy greens)
  • Crackers or whole-grain bread
  • Cereals that are high in fiber and low in sugar
  • Quinoa, brown rice, or wild rice
  • Eggs in their entirety (white and yolk)
  • Yogurt from Greece
  • String cheese made with milk
  • Red meats that are lean

Poultry \ Fish \ Hummus

Did you know that in some cases, fat can be good for you.

  • Avocado
  • Peanut butter is a delicious spread.
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Canola or olive oil (the latter, if baking)
  • Coconut oil
  • Flax seed


Hydration is a crucial component in sports performance. A tailored hydration regimen is beneficial to most athletes. A good rule of thumb for training is to ingest at least:

Before training, drink two glasses of water.

Every 15 minutes of activity, drink four to six ounces of water.

Your entire pre-to-post-fluid losses have an influence on your post-event/training hydration demands. Weigh yourself before and after an exercise to get an accurate reading. Replace 16 ounces of liquids for every pound of weight loss. Water, low-fat milk, or 100 percent juice are the best hydration options. Sports drinks are best used during competitions when rapid hydration and electrolyte replenishment are required.

Nutrition for game day

When it comes to eating on game day, there are a few golden principles to follow:

Keep in mind that optimal nourishment for the “major tournament/race/meet” does not occur just on the day of the event. It occurs throughout the days, weeks, and months before the competition.

On game day, never try a new dietary or supplement plan. To begin, test it out before to a practice or training session to ensure that you can endure it.

Make your meals smaller as the game/competition approaches. Additionally, minimize dairy, oil, and fibrous carbohydrate sources one to one and a half hours before the event/practice, since they may create GI difficulties.

Eating on the Go

In order to perform at your best during a tournament, you must consume healthy meals while traveling. During a tournament, relying on the concession stand for meals is practically a guarantee of failure. Players (and parents) should bring a range of foods and drinks with them.

Whole grain crackers with low-fat cheese, tortilla wraps with veggies and lean meat, hard-boiled eggs, vegetable or bean soups, small boxes of non-sugary cereal, fresh fruit, mini-whole wheat bagels with peanut butter, pita bread with hummus, or pasta with grilled chicken are all good sources of energy. Combine any of these dishes with fruit or vegetables and milk for a delicious dinner.

Food choices that are good for you > food choices that aren’t so good for you

Chicken, turkey, or seafood grilled on the grill > Chicken or fish fried

Pork or lean beef > Bacon, sausage, and burgers

Fruits, vegetables, salads, and soups made with veggies > Fries, fried rice, alfredo sauce, and cheese sauce

Nuts, trail mix, seeds, or peanut butter are all good options. Pork rinds, chips, and cheese curls > Eggs and egg substitutes Hash browns, sausage, and omelettes stuffed with cheese

Who eats whole grain breads, rice, and pasta? White bread, rice, and pasta that have been highly processed

Products made from milk > Ice cream and other dairy products with a lot of sugar added to them

As the game/competition approaches, reduce the size of your meals and eliminate fats and dairy items. Fibrous carbs are advantageous since they tend to produce GI distress.

The key to “pre-event” nutrition is to make sure you’ve tried it out before the big game. To ensure that you can endure the pre-meal/snack strategy, try it out ahead of time.

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