Eating Like an Athlete

Beyond having a diet, eating like an athlete means that you prepare meals characterized by common sense. A balanced, varied diet, based on healthy products and without excesses will give the athlete optimal results.
Eating Like an Athlete

Last update: 28 January, 2019

Just like a vehicle, an athlete not only requires a good engine and body. Using the right fuel will bring out your full potential, and practicing a sport as demanding as athletics requires more than hard and constant practice. For a good sporting performance, eating like an athlete will allow your body to give its best.

What does eating like an athlete entail?

An athlete’s diet must provide them with the necessary nutrients to achieve maximum performance. You will find these nutrients in products such as vegetables, meat, cereals, fish, fruits and dairy products. All of them in a balanced way to guarantee the necessary energy, maintain body weight and develop muscle mass.

The carbohydrates present in vegetables, cereals, and fruits, among others, will cover the energy needs of the athlete. When converted to glucose, they serve as fuel for the proper functioning of the muscles.

Eating at least one piece of fruit a day is necessary for the vitamins that they contain. Combining vegetables rich in starch with green legumes are a good option to assimilate them better.

Proteins enhance the recovery of the muscles after doing physical exercise. Red meats, chicken, fish, milk, and eggs are essential for those who practice athletics.

Animal proteins should preferably come from fish and chicken. You can eat red meat once or twice a week, preferably on resting days, and not on competition days.

Foods that should be moderated

Greasy foods

Eating like an athlete means you must consume fatty foods in moderation, a small amount allows vitamins to be absorbed and can be beneficial. Athletes must choose unsaturated fats present in vegetable oils, nuts, and fish. It’s advisable to eat low-fat foods and avoid the use of additional fat in meals.


With having a good menu that includes vegetables and fruits, your fiber requirements should be covered. An excess of fiber-rich foods can cause some athletes to have stomach discomfort. Also, fiber produces satiety and can interfere with the athletes required caloric intake.

Salt and sugar for those who practice athletics

These “enemies”, often found in a typical diet may not be so bad for athletes. Athletics training requires that you replenish carbohydrates and maintain an adequate level of electrolytes. The sugar and salt present in our daily food intake are vital for this.

Using grain salt is more recommended than refined salt. On the other hand, as far as sugar is concerned, sweetening with honey provides our bodies more vitamins than refined sugar.


Athletes must consume enough fluid to stay hydrated. Water as a first option, two to two and a half liters is recommended; fruit juices and sugary drinks can be consumed after hard workouts. It’s necessary to hydrate before and after exercising, and every 15 minutes while training.

Knowing when to eat is important for athletes

A good diet is vital for any athlete. Eating well prepares the body for both training and competition. Before competing, it’s very important to control what foods you’re eating.

On the day that you’re going to compete, it’s recommended that you consume foods rich in carbohydrates, alongside a moderate amount of protein, but, you should eat less fatty foods. Two to four hours before competing, the athlete should prepare a meal containing these characteristics.

If the athlete doesn’t have time to cook a meal, they may eat a snack about two hours before competing. The snack can consist of crackers, muffins, low-fat yogurt, vegetables or fruits with low fiber content.

One hour before the competition, it’s recommended not to consume anything, since digestion consumes energy. In addition, it can cause discomfort that would hinder the athlete’s performance.

The benefits of proper nutrition in athletics

Among other things, eating like an athlete will allow you to:

  • Improve your performance.
  • Maintain the right weight.
  • Avoid injuries and diseases.
  • Improve your recovery after training and competitions.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.