Expert advice Nutrition
9 ways to eat like an athlete

K.Vijay Simha

Bachelor in Physiotherapy, Exercise Scientist, Exercise Rehabilitation Specialist

5 min read

Any individual who takes part in competitive sports or events that require physical strength, speed and endurance are known as athletes. The ideal daily intake of calories changes with age, metabolism and levels of physical activity. Generally, the recommended daily calorie intake is 2,000 calories a day for women and 2,500 for men. But for athletes, this number can increase by 500 to 1,000 more calories depending upon the sport they train for.

As a competitive athlete, you need to eat the necessary number of calories for peak performance and to maintain the ideal fitness level for UR sport. Usually, an athlete should eat 5-6 meals per day. The calorie needs are directly proportional to the amount of lean muscle mass you have on UR body, so the stronger you are, the more calories you need to eat. Here are few tips that you can follow to refine UR food needs and fitness goals while training.

Never neglect UR breakfast

You might have heard it before, but it’s worth repeating. Many athletes head out to run skipping their breakfast. Your blood sugar is already low when you wake up. Eating breakfast is essential and prepares you for the day. If you’re not used to eating in the morning, start small with having a glass of apple/orange juice with zero sugar before your workouts/run until your stomach adapts. Eat a small toast along with juice once your stomach adapts to this routine. Start adding protein to the toast like peanut butter, egg white omelette in UR first meal before heading out for a run or workout session. Initially, it might slow down UR gastric emptying process, so you’ll need more time after you eat and before heading for a run or to the gym.

Fuel UR body 24/7

Fuel UR body 24/7

Drinking water while you work out/training is excellent. If you continue UR training without hydrating UR body adequately, you are never going to perform at UR best. Athletes should be consuming 0.5 to 1 litre of water per kg of bodyweight every day. Stay consistent with water intake all through the day so that you can replace the lost electrolytes post training. But do not drink too much of sugar-loaded energy drinks while training as they may help you retain the electrolytes, but better to dilute these drinks with ½ to ⅔ of water before drinking them.

Improve UR immunity

To perform well is to stay healthy, this can be done when we add a good number of antioxidants and superfoods in our diet. Incorporate whole-grain carbs, lean proteins, and different fruits and veggies into your snacks and meals every day For example: Try Greek yoghurt, it is high in probiotics, you can top it with some walnuts, fruit or flax seeds for an extra antioxidant boost.

Eat iron-rich foods

Eat iron-rich foods

Experts say it’s common for women to fall short of required iron in the body. When it comes to female athletes, they need to be a little more careful about the iron deficit in their body, as low iron deficiency could slow you down and increase your risk of injury in any sport. So be sure to include plenty of iron-packed products, such as oatmeal, fortified cereals, red meat, and spinach, into UR diet.

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Learn to prepare UR meals

Being an athlete, you must travel all over the world to compete, so it is tough to maintain a routine. You must do a lot of planning to stay in shape. Plan UR weekly diet plan on Sunday, so you spend UR valuable time on other important things. Stack up some healthy snacks and meals fit for UR diet, which you can stick to throughout the week. And keep an individual-sized blender so that you can prepare high-protein recovery drinks whenever you want.

Do not restrict UR calories

Do not restrict UR calories

Many athletes, specifically female athletes, have false assumptions that cutting their calorie intake would help them to stay lean, but contrary to that, restricting your calorie intake causes reduced carbohydrates stored in your body. Carbohydrates act as a fuel for training and performing; fewer carbohydrates storage can then lead to muscle breakdown as your body starts taking protein from your muscle as its alternate fuel, where you end up losing your muscle. The less amount of lean muscle mass you carry on your body, the weaker you would become.

Eat carbs before UR game day

You need to maintain your nutrition every day. The night before UR game or event day is a good time to top up your fuel stores. Hitting the body with a massive amount of carbs night before the competition doesn’t do any good to you as you can’t use all the carbs you load, so to stay safe simply replace one protein or veggie portion of UR plate with another carb-rich food.

Hydrate yourself throughout UR event

Hydrate yourself throughout UR event

Drink during your race/event/game to finish better than you started. Based on UR event, you should be taking in about 30 to 60g of carbs per hour to replenish your glycogen stores and continuously consume fluids. If you don’t hydrate your body along with those calories, it will lead to stomach upset, where you end up performing poorly.

Eat to recover

What you eat after a workout/game/endurance activity is equally important as what you eat before any physical activity. You should consume something made with a mix of protein and carbs, like a glass of protein shake made with almond milk. There might be a few muscle fibres tears during UR activity, so having protein and carb-rich food immediately within 30-60 minutes post event/training/game will help you recover faster and reduce body soreness. For example, to have a reliable, post-event recovery, within five minutes of finishing, have an electrolyte drink. Within 30 minutes after training, have a protein shake 20g of a high-quality protein blend and at least 60g of carbs. And within 60 minutes have a hearty sandwich with protein and carbs with fresh veg salad.