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The Importance of Food in an Athlete’s Performance



It takes a lot to be an athlete. It’s not just all about training and playing a sport a lot, but being an athlete is an actual lifestyle. Professional athletes always watch out for the things that they do include what food they eat.

Good nutrition, a well-planned and nutritious diet can enhance an athlete’s performance. Food plays a crucial part in how well they could perform during a game or even the rest of the season. And even serious sports punters know about this as they would do a bit of research about an athlete’s diet before visiting sites like to help them improve the bets they will place.

Professional and college athletes would partner up or collaborate with nutritionists and coaches to make sure that they are all educated about proper nutrition. Joan Salge Blake, a clinical associate professor at Boston University’s Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences that an athlete’s nutrition will depend on the athlete himself/herself and the sport he/she is playing.

“Depending on the sport, whether it’s soccer, basketball, or ice hockey, individuals need one-on-one attention to figure out how food will impact their play. It depends upon the activity that you’re feeling for. This is why someone needs to sit down with a sports-certified registered dietitian nutritionist,” Blake said in an interview.

Blake also explained the importance of fueling an athlete’s body correctly before and during participating in practice or a match. She said that athletes should be aware of what they are eating at all times, even if they are not currently active in their sport. A balanced diet should be maintained throughout the year for it to be beneficial.

Blake also added, “We also want to make sure that in between matches or games that you sustain a good diet to keep on fueling the body for practices to get ready for a big game.”

When it comes to athletes who haven’t thought of their nutrition before, she said that it is never too late to make a beneficial change.

“You have to fill the body with good food and nutrients to perform at peak performance,” Blake said. “It is beyond just genetic, and more that you have to not only need to feed the body with great nutrition and hydration before the performance, but during the performance depending upon the length of your performance, and also most importantly, post-performance,” Blake further explained.

The Basic Training Diet

An athlete’s daily diet should provide them enough energy to meet the demands of practice, training, and exercises. If they have a well-balanced diet, it could enhance their adaptation to their daily training routine and it could also help with their recovery in-between training sessions.

A proper diet should include a wide variety of food options including wholegrain bread, cereals, fruits, vegetables, lean meat, and low-fat dairy products. Optimal body weight and fat levels should be maintained for better performance.

Hydration is also important. An athlete should make sure that he or she has reached maximum hydration before, during, and after training. Ideally, this is how an athlete’s macros should look like:

  • Carbohydrates: 55 percent or more
  • Protein: 12 to 15 percent
  • Fat: Less than 30 percent

However, if an athlete has strenuous daily training that would last from 60 to 90 minutes, he or she may need to increase their energy by eating more carbs. This means that their macros should have around 65 to 70 percent of carbohydrates.

The percentage of an athlete’s daily carb intake will depend on how strenuous their daily activities are. Here’s a quick guide on how much carbs they should consume in a day depending on their activities:

  • Light Intensity exercise (30 mins): 3–5 kg
  • Moderate intensity exercise (60 mins): 5–7 kg
  • Endurance exercise (1–3 hours):6–10 kg
  • Extreme endurance exercise (more than 4 hours):8–12 kg

While many would think that carbs can be bad and could lead to gaining weight, it’s quite different for athletes as they are very active in terms of training and exercise. When carbs are digested, these turn into glucose or sugar that would give them the energy to go through the day with their routines.

If an active athlete doesn’t get enough carbs, they may have less energy to move around and it could compromise their training. What’s even worse is that they may lose protein which would affect their muscle tissues. It could cause cramps and could heighten the risk of infections and illnesses.

Intake of high-fat foods should be avoided. Examples of these are cake, pastries, biscuits, chips or crisps, and fried food.

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