Are You Eating Right As an Athlete or is Your Body Secretly  Suffering?

Are You Eating Right As an Athlete or is Your Body Secretly  Suffering?

Most people associate athletes with a particular lifestyle. In the context of  this article, an athlete refers to anyone trained to compete in sports,  whatever their choice of sport is. Athletes are often referred to as “living a  healthy lifestyle”. Athletes, unlike non active or sedentary people, have to  be cautious and sometimes meticulous about their nutrition.

Nutrition In fact is so important for athletes that top competing athletes like  LeBron James, the 37-year-old Lakers forward, have their own nutritionist.  Elena Hight, Olympic snowboarder and X games gold medalist said “The  nutritionist at Cliff bar taught me that fueling for exercise, training and  competition is different than fueling for life.” 1

Why is nutrition important for athletes? 

In simple terms, nutrition 2refers the way in which food affects health. Good  nutrition is beneficial to everyone universally; it is hard to argue with that.  The main source of nutrition for us as humans and other animals is through  food. Food has macronutrients such as carbohydrates, protein, fats, which  the body processes to give us energy. Although food is the primary source  of such nutrients, athletes can also benefits from performance  supplements. 

The conversion of macronutrients to energy takes place through a  complex process known as “energy production” which can be a different  topic on its own. 3Our bodies require a constant supply of energy to fuel  our working organs, including the brain, heart, lungs, and muscles.  Generally, the more energy you use the more food (macronutrients) your  body will need to supply you with energy. 

Among other nutrients, 4Carbohydrates, fats, and protein can all be used  as fuels, although the body does not use them equally in that capacity.  Without turning this article into an energy production lesson. It is important  to understand that 4the chemical energy produced from the food fuel is  stored as adenosine triphosphate (ATP). 4The ATP then transfers this  energy, to energy requiring physiological functions, such as muscle  contraction during exercise, in which some energy performs the work and  some is converted into heat.

Knowledge of this process is essential because at its core, it explains why  the nutritional needs of athletes differ from those of non-athletes. 

The physiological needs of athletes compared to non-athletes. 

When you are at rest, demand for ATP in the body is low; 3however, sport  and exercise can increase this demand as much as a thousand fold,  requiring a coordinated metabolic response by the energy systems to  replenish ATP levels. You can replenish ATP (energy Levels) by adding  macronutrients into the system (Eating Food). Consequently, nutrition (the  food you eat) is either used for energy, converted to heat, or stored as fat. 

Because we are all different, 5there is no single diet that meets the needs  of all athletes at all times. Furthermore, a physiological advantage in one  sport may be a limiting factor to another. Muscle mass for example, may  

give you an advantage in body building but it will slow you down when  running uphill during a marathon because of that additional weight and the  reduction in your power to weight ratio. 

In addition to general good nutrition recommended to non-athletes.  Athletes have to adopt a nutritional diet to complement their training and  leverage it to improve performance, reduce injury risk, and promote  recovery.  

In many cases a diet may not meet the nutritional needs of your athletic  activity, so you can benefit from performance supplements such as the  hydration sauce, which can help with endurance, energy, hydration, and  recovery.  

This book identifies the goals of an optimal training diet as: • Providing caloric and nutrient requirements 

  • Incorporating nutritional practices that promote good health  • Achieving and maintaining optimal body composition and  competition weight  
  • Promoting recovery from training sessions and physiological  adaptations 
  • Trying variations of pre competition and competition fuel and fluid  intake to determine the body’s responses  

Unlike non-athletes, 6depending on the intensity, duration, and frequency  of exercise, in general athletes should consume between 6-10 grams of  carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight per day.  

It is therefore 3critical that athletes consume appropriate intakes of energy,  macro-, and micronutrients for training and competition, to have  appropriate energy and substrate availability for the exercise that they  undertake and to enable tissue growth and repair. This is something non athletes do not need to prioritize. 

Nutritional needs of athletes compared to non-athletes. 

Because of our understanding of the energy production system and the  effects it has, we are able develop nutritional diets and supplements for  different population groups, including athletes. When done right, this can  have various benefits to athletes. As validated by the 5International  Olympic Committee and its Medical Commission. Specialized nutrition has  the potential elevate the game of athletes. 

5Well-chosen eating practices have much to offer the athlete: • Fuel to train and perform at the elite level 

  • Optimum gains from the training program 
  • Enhanced recovery between workouts and between events • Achievement and maintenance of an ideal body mass and physique • Benefits from the many health-promoting components of food • A reduced risk of injury, overtraining fatigue and illness • Confidence in being well-prepared to face competition • Consistency in achieving high-level competition performances • Enjoyment of food and social eating occasions at home and during  travel

It is therefore in the interest of athletes and trainers to prioritize good  nutrition. “An athlete’s energy requirements are made up of several  components: baseline metabolic needs (such as the energy required to  support cellular maintenance, temperature regulation, and immune  health), growth, and physical activity.” 5 Energy however is not the only  need met by nutrition for athletes.  

To maximize performance, reduce injury and promote recovery  4individuals in exercise training need to match their training regimen with  an appropriate diet. This can easily be achieved with an experienced  nutritionist.  

In this guide put out by the International Olympic Committee and its  Medical Commission elaborate in detail the typical nutritional needs for  athletes as: 

  • Water and salt needs for training, competition and recovery  • Carbohydrates for training and recovery  
  • Carbohydrate for competition  
  • Carbohydrate intake during exercise  
  • Dietary protein for athletes from requirements to optimum adaptation  • Vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals  
  • Supplements and sports foods  

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Taking nutritional supplements and adopting a healthy diet can be very  useful when done correctly. It can however also cause harm to people who  may develop eating disorders. Always remember that supplements are for  supplementing food. 

Ideally, you want to achieve an energy balance specific to your  physiological demands. This is true for both athletes and non-athletes.  Energy balance is achieved 5when daily intake of food energy from  carbohydrate, fat, protein is equal to energy expenditure. It is  demonstrated by the formula below.

  • 5Energy balance = Energy intake – energy expenditure  

Food consumed in excess does not benefit the athlete and may actually  become fat. 5Physical activity – or in the case of an athlete, the intensity,  duration and frequency of training sessions and competition – will play a  strong role in determining daily energy requirements. Again, a nutritionist  

can help you determine this. 

Bringing it all together. 

The body has a specialized system to produce energy through food and  nutrients. The nutritional needs of an individual depend on their  physiological demands. Unlike non-athletes, athletes require a specialized  diet to meet the physiological demands of their athletic activity such as  sports.  

This specialized diet can help athletes improve performance, reduce  injury, and promote recovery. Performance supplements can make up for  the shortfall supply of macro ands micro-nutrients. 

If you need help with nutrition and meal plans check out Here you’ll gain access to custom nutrition plans for your body type,  activity level and goals. You’ll also get meal plans, recipes and shopping  lists. 


  1. Mackenzie NG. Eight top competing athlete share their nutrition  tricks for high-perfoming new year. ESPN. January 2, 2018. Available at: athletes-share-their-nutrition-tricks-high-performing-new-year. Accessed  April 24, 2022.  
  2. Heather Bateman KMHS. Dictionary of Sport and Exercise Science.  London: A & C Black Publishers Ltd; 2006.  
  3. Belski R, Forsyth A, Mantzioris E. Nutrition for sports exercise and  perfomance: A practical guide for students, sports enthusiasts and  profesionals. Crows Nest NSW: Allen & Unwin; 2019. 
  4. Sharon A. Plowman DLS. Exercise Physiology For health, fitness, and  performance. 3rd ed. Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2011.  
  5. Maughan R, Burke L. Nutrition for Athletes: A practical guide to  eating for health and performance. Lausanne: International Olympic  Committee and Powerade; 2012.  
  6. J C, K M. Nutrition for Athletes. Food and Nutrition Series. July  2015(9). #:~:text=RECOMMENDED%20INTAKE%20OF%20CARBOHYDRATES,guideline%20for%20estimating %20carbohydrate%20needs.