Healthy Diet for Athletes

Healthy Diet for AthletesWhile everyone wants to be as healthy as possible, athletes take physical fitness to another level. Naturally, a healthy diet for athletes is expected to be quite different from those of us who are not as physically active.

A Healthy Diet for Athletes includes:

Because they burn so much energy during their daily activities, athletes require more calories than the average person. One of the best sources of these extra calories is carbohydrates. As muscles are depleted during sports or weight training, the need for protein increases. As a general rule, the more active a person is, the more they need to consume in order to maintain a healthy body.


Carbohydrates are the most immediate and efficient sources of energy for the body. While carbohydrates make up a third of the possible energy sources, they provide a disproportionately high amount of the energy used during exercise – upwards of 50%. The carbs we eat are converted into glucose and stored in the muscles for easy access during physical activities.

Complex carbohydrates, such as those found in bread, cereal, or rice, are the best for our bodies and their long-term energy needs. Simple carbohydrates are broken down more quickly by the body and do not provide the same quality of long-term energy, though they are useful for immediate energy requirements. It is especially important for endurance athletes to consume higher levels of complex carbohydrates, especially within the week prior to a competitive event.


For many people, fats would not be at the top of the list when putting together a healthy diet for athletes. However, while fats may have a bad reputation in popular culture and “street science” for being unhealthy, the truth is that fats are incredibly necessary for our bodies to run properly. Some of the fat that we eat is used up during exercise for energy, similarly to, though not in the same quantities, as carbohydrates. The longer we exercise, the more fat is used.

While fat is essential to our bodies, we do need to be mindful of how much of it we eat, as it can soon become excessive and result in weight gain – a definite problem for performance athletes.

Fats are found in a wide variety of foods and usually do not need to be sought out. Some foods, such as meats, dairy, and eggs are especially high in fats and should be limited.


In any conversation regarding health and fitness, protein is mentioned. While everyone knows that protein is essential, the precise reasons (and amounts) are often unknown. Many people overestimate how much protein they need. Like any source of calories, if too much protein is consumed, the resulting excess will be converted into fat stored in the body for use later on.

In general, athletes should consume around 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. There are varying recommendations based on the particular type of exercise, as well as the age and gender of the athlete.

Foods high in protein include nuts, legumes, eggs, and meats. Protein is nearly ubiquitous, however, and can be found in reasonably high concentration in most foods, including grains.


Of all the things we need to consume, water is by far the most essential. It’s become well known that while we may survive for quite a while without food, we cannot sustain life without water. Being well hydrated both before and after exercise is key. If you feel thirsty prior to exercise, you should consume water – well before exercise. Drinking too closely to an exercise routine can cause cramping and put a dent in your fitness plan.

Vitamins and Minerals

A well-balanced, healthy diet for athletes should provide all the necessary vitamins and minerals. Macronutrients serve a variety of roles in both basic body functions as well as the physical activities performed by athletes, including recovery from exercise and the maintenance of our bones.

When involved in daily physical activity, monitoring your diet closely is of vital importance. While no one can offer exact requirements, your body will usually let you know if something is wrong. Be aware of doctor recommendations, listen to your body, and stay focused!

About Valerie Springfield

Marketing is my profession. Health and wellness is my passion.