An athlete’s diet

An athlete’s diet will usually involve a much higher calorie intake than other people’s because the body is constantly working hard and therefore burning calories. Calories that are burnt off during exercise should be replaced in order to keep the body fuelled, maintain performance levels and concentration and prevent weight loss. Some athletes consume up to 6,000 calories each day; recommended daily calorie intake is usually 2,500 calories for adult males and 2,000 for adult females.

Pre match/event meal (at least 4 hours before)

This meal should be rich in complex carbohydrates; it should also contain protein, vegetables or fruits and a small portion of a food containing fat. Examples of meals commonly eaten by athletes include pasta, meat, salads and stir-fry. The high complex carbohydrate content will boost energy levels and keep the athlete fuelled for a long period of time after the meal. If a match is at lunchtime, it is important to eat a big breakfast which will usually consist of cereals, toast, eggs and lean meat; fruits are also a common choice for breakfast.

Pre event snack (30 minutes before)

Having a snack just before a game can boost energy levels and provide a quick burst of energy; the snack should be small to prevent indigestion during a match. Examples of snacks include granola bars, bananas and dried fruit.

During the activity

During the activity it is important to keep hydrated; this will help to prevent injuries and keep the body working effectively. Some athletes who are competing for long periods of time will eat at stages during the activity; tennis players, for example, are often pictured eating bananas between games. Energy drinks can also provide an energy boost.

After the activity (immediately after)

Hydration levels should be boosted immediately after the end of an exercise sessions; this will prevent muscle pains and headaches and aid recovery.

Post-match meal (2-3 hours after)

It is important to replace the calories burnt off during the match by replenishing glycogen stores; this usually involves eating another meal rich in complex, starchy carbohydrates. It is also important to remember to continue taking on plenty of fluids.

Sports and Nutrition Guide Index:

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