Proper Nutrition for Athletes

Use Specific Nutrition Information for Athletes to Better Fuel Your Body for Exercise and Recovery

As athletes, we often spend too much time putting together our workouts, trying to get each detail just right, each rep and set scheme, each training method, and each periodization model just right for our progress.

But, as coaches, we know that even if we train hard in the gym every day, we are only training about 5-6 hours total, not including practice, and maybe games or competition.

(We highly recommend this book--easy to read answers to most questions we get from parents and athletes, written by a highly acclaimed and experienced youth sports dietitian--definitely worth every penny!)

Regardless, that still leaves a lot of time, right?

The point is that it's what we do outside of the gym, or off the field, or outside of competition that allows us to get the most out of what we do--mostly sleep and athlete nutrition.

Although sleep is extremely important, the main focus of this page is nutrition.

The importance of Proper Nutrition for Athletes in Optimal Athletic Performance

Proper nutrition for athletes is one of the most important training factors and should be included in the foundation of a well-planned, comprehensive sports performance enhancement program.

Without proper fuel and nourishment for your body, you will not attain your full athletic potential and will be more susceptible to fatigue and injury.

Realizing the full benefits of a consistent and well-designed performance enhancement training program requires a balanced, healthy, nutrient dense diet coupled with specific nutrient timing.

Remember, the amount of work and effort an athlete exerts in performance training is only effective and beneficial if s/he puts the correct balance of healthy foods into his/her system AND the athlete gets sufficient sleep.

Having proper nutrition for athletes is crucial to performance enhancement and we strongly urge each athlete to treat it that way.

Reduce Injury Risk and Combat Fatigue by Eating the Right Foods

Research shows that most injuries occur in the last 20 minutes of practice or a game, which is typically, when fatigue increases.

Besides improper training preparation (specific conditioning and sports fitness, which is also known as energy system development), a decreased level of carbohydrate intake is one of the main factors responsible for the onset of fatigue.

What this means is that without the proper nutrition for athletes prior to and during competition, the body will run out of fuel and shut down, regardless of how well the athlete is trained from a physical standpoint...

You can't drive a brand new car on an empty tank!

The human body requires proper nutrition--Proper nutrition for athletes includes eating a healthy, nutrient rich, balanced diet.

Athlete Nutrition Guidelines:

(Proper Nutrition for Athletes Guidelines taken from "Advanced Exercise Nutrition version 1.1" by Marie Dunford, Human Kinetics, 2007--this is an excellent text and part of the online sports nutrition course offered by Human Kinetics)

Strength Trained Athletes Need:

  1. Energy: 30-60 calories per kilogram of body weight per day. Needs vary based on the specific sport and training regime.

  2. Carbohydrates: 5-7 grams per kilogram per day is typically adequate for high intensity, short duration training; 8-10 g/kg may be needed to support prolonged training

  3. Protein: 1.4-1.7 grams per kilogram of body weight per day

  4. Fats: At least 1.0 gram per kilogram of body weight per day and enough to meet energy needs

Endurance Trained Athletes Need:

  1. Energy: 35-50+ calories per kilogram of body weight per day. Needs vary based on the specific sport and training regime.

  2. Carbohydrates: 6-8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day; 8 to 10 g/kg during heavy training and competition. Ultraendurance athletes typically require a minimum of 8 g/kg during training and need substantially more than 10 g/kg during intense training and competitio

  3. Protein: 1.2-1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight per day

  4. Fats: At least 1.0 gram per kilogram of body weight per day and enough to meet energy needs

Additional Athlete Nutrition Guidelines:

Pre-Exercise: Guidelines for Proper Nutrition for Athletes

  1. One to four hours prior to exercise, athletes should consume meals that are high in carbohydrate, moderate in protein, low in fat, and adequate in fluids and energy. This type of meal will provide glucose, prevent dehydration, and delay fatigue.

  2. In the hour prior to exercise, the focus narrows to carbohydrate and fluid intake.

  3. The amount of food consumed is determined by the amount of time before the exercise begins. Smaller meals are eaten closer to an athlete’s starting time, and larger meals are eaten when there is more time for the meal to be digested. The athlete can set the stage for good performance by consuming the right amount of food and fluid at the right time.

During Exercise: Guidelines for Proper Nutrition for Athletes

  1. Recommendations for food and fluid intake during training or performance depend on the sport.

  2. The intensity of exercise, the amount of gastrointestinal distress, and the demands of high environmental temperatures and humidity are some of the reasons that food and fluid intake falls short

  3. For athletes who engage in prolonged exercise in the heat, carbohydrate, fluid, and electrolyte intake is absolutely critical for performance and health.

  4. The American College of Sports Medicine guidelines for fluid replacement during exercise are the consumption of 150 to 350 ml (~ 5 to 12 ounces) at 15 to 20 minute intervals beginning with the onset of exercise.

  5. During prolonged exercise most athletes consume a beverage containing 6 to 8% carbohydrate.

Post Exercise: Guidelines for Proper Nutrition for Athletes

  1. Within the first hour after exercise at least 1 gram of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight should be consumed. One of the most important factors in muscle glycogen resynthesis (replacing energy stores in the muscles) is the consumption of carbohydrate immediately after exercise.

  2. Consumption of a small amount of protein is also beneficial.

  3. Carbohydrate and fluid consumption should continue for at least the next four to six hours.

  4. Taking a scale weight before and after exercise can help the athlete estimate how much fluid was lost during exercise and determine how much fluid needs to be consumed. Along with weight, monitoring urine color and thirst are simple ways to evalute current hydration status

Using a Registered Sports Dietitian for Specific Nutritional Services

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COACH HOY'S READING CORNERCoaches reading corner

Kingdom Man: Every Man's Destiny, Every Woman's Dream

By Dr. Tony Evans

“A kingdom man is the kind of man that when his feet hit the floor each morning the devil says, ‘Oh crap, he’s up!’”

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"This books is an excellent guide for any man who wants to live by God's design for male leadership in a family!"--Jeremy Hoy

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