Should Pasta be an Athlete’s Favorite Food?

7th April 2020
In general, the use of carbohydrates increases the intensity of exercise, while at the same time, reducing its duration. Which carbohydrates are the best? Is pasta an athlete's favorite food? Today, we'll answer these questions and more. 

For a long time, athletes have been aware of the need to add more carbohydrates to their diets before physical exertion. What’s more, some go so far as to say that pasta should be an athlete’s favorite food to eat before competing. However, is there any scientific evidence to support this claim?

Consuming pasta before training

The objectives of sports nutrition during training are the following:

  • Satisfying energy and nutrient requirements that are necessary for maintaining a training program.
  • Utilizing food and training in order to obtain the fat mass and muscle mass that are compatible with a given sport.
  • Improving the adaptation and recovery between training sessions.
  • Experimenting with and testing nutritional strategies for competition.
  • Reducing deficiency diseases during periods of intense training.

Carbohydrates: athlete’s favorite food

The number of carbohydrates that an athlete should consume depends on the training load. Therefore, for light, low-intensity training, the carbohydrate recommendation is between three and five grams, per kilo, per day. At the same time, for moderate-intensity training, the recommendation goes up to five to seven grams of carbohydrates, per kilo, per day.

This recommendation continues progressively up to twelve grams of carbohydrates per day per kilo for individuals that perform daily moderately high-intensity training sessions that last four to five hours.

In regard to the type of carbohydrate that should be consumed during training, there are no concrete specifications–all are suitable. However, it’s important to stay away from low nutritional density, such as pastries.

Broccoli pasta salad.

Proteins

When it comes to the ingestion of proteins, there are no standardized data. The recommendations for the general public are to consume 0,8 grams of protein, per kilo, per day.

However, as a person’s training load increases, these requirements also increase, reaching 2.5 grams of protein, per kilo, per day.

Fat

The total amount of fat in an athlete’s diet is just as important as making sure the percentage between the different types of fat are correct. This is true in regard to physical performance as well as a person’s overall health.

Should pasta be an athlete’s favorite food before a competition?

Some sports require athletes to maintain a specific weight in order to be in one category or another. In these cases, reaching this goal with minimal consequences to a person’s health and performance is a priority. On many occasions, in order to reach the desired weight, athletes will restrict foods and liquids. This can lead to serious consequences such as dehydration and related psychological stress.

Before competing: athlete’s favorite food

The objective of this phase is to complete the energy reserves established by the diet during training. It’s important to optimize carbohydrate levels in muscles and the liver and to maintain proper hydration.

One of the conditions necessary in order to delay fatigue, as well as the time that exertion lasts, is an athlete’s diet before a competition. In this sense, diets that are overloaded with carbohydrates, such as the Nordic diet, are the most suitable.

This diet suggests first exhausting muscular glycogen reserves through the restriction of carbohydrates and through physical exercise. Then, two days before a competition, athletes will consume a diet rich in carbohydrates. At the same time, they’ll refrain from all physical activity in order to maximize the filling of deposits.

Competition day: athlete’s favorite food

Approximately eight hours before competition, experts recommend that athletes eat a good portion of pasta or rice along with vegetables, white meat, or bluefish. This meal can also include yogurt or fruit for dessert and coffee, as long as the individual is not sensitive to caffeine. Otherwise, coffee could be counterproductive and cause intestinal discomfort or agitation.

Later, three hours before a competition, athletes should eat foods that are easily digestible, low in fat and protein, and rich in carbohydrates. More specifically, these carbohydrates should be of fast or moderate absorption, such as a piece of fruit.

A bowl of white rice.

The food athletes eat during a competition will depend on the intensity of the sport being practiced. And even more so, it depends on the duration of the event.

Pasta after a competition

Once the sporting event is over, replenishing a person’s water and energy levels is fundamental. In order to estimate hydration levels, it’s best for athletes to weigh themselves just before and just after competing.

Water loss shouldn’t exceed 2 percent. If it does, this means that the athlete’s hydration strategy was insufficient. Therefore, he or she will need to drink more water and add more salt than usual to foods.

Regarding the foods athletes that should eat during this phase, solid foods with a higher quantity of carbohydrates are the best option. Some researchers think that it’s also important to drink protein drinks immediately after a competition, but not all experts agree.

Conclusion

As you can see, the consumption of carbohydrates is a key part of sports nutrition. This is true not only during the training period but also during competition. So, it’s no wonder many people say that pasta is an athlete’s favorite food.

  • Burke, L. (2010). Nutricion En El Deporte/Nutrition in Sport: Un Enfoque Práctico/a Practical Approach. Ed. Médica Panamericana