Athletes and Diet
Feeling good is important for optimal training and performance. The foods an athlete and bodybuilder consume are the building blocks to their muscles, connective tissue, and bones. The foods also provide nutrients that help an athlete or bodybuilder to recover from training, repair and build muscle, and fill exhausted glycogen stores.
Plant-based diets give athletes all of the nutrients that their bodies need for training and competition. Due to the fact that plant-based diets are high in carbohydrates, low in fat, and rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, they work to support and/or improve an athlete’s performance.
The main source of fuel during high-intensity exercise is carbohydrates. Carbohydrates help to improve endurance and performance. Athletes need the same amount of carbohydrates as everyone else on a per calorie basis. Should any specific recommendations need to be made, it would be done according to the athlete’s weight and activity type.
For example: When training for strenuous activity such as a marathon, it may be useful to load carbohydrates before the event and time carbohydrates after the event. During regular activity, these strategies aren’t necessary.
Sources of carbohydrates include rice, potatoes, pasta, brown rice, quinoa, and vegetables.
Athletes use minimal amounts of protein for fuel. The primary purpose of protein is to build and maintain body tissue. The best type of protein for an athlete is plant-based protein. This is because it’s comprised of fibre and complex carbohydrates.
The average sedentary or lightly active adult needs about 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight daily. An athlete’s protein needs vary from 1.2 to 1.7 grams per kilogram (0.55 to 0.75 grams per pound) of body weight daily. Ex: An athlete who weighs 190 pounds would need between 105 and 143 grams of protein daily. About 20-30 grams should be consumed post-exercise in order to support muscle repair and growth.
Athletes who need additional protein can get it from beans, non-dairy, milk, nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, and veggie burgers.
Monosaturated fats are a vital source of energy. They help to support healthy skin and hair, brain cell growth and the absorption of essential nutrients. However, athletes should avoid high-fat diets. Consuming plenty of fats, especially before a workout or a game can make an athlete feel sluggish. Fats also slow down digestion. If an athlete does eat fats, it should be in the form of avocado, nuts, olive oil, or fatty fish.
Sample Meal Plan
A diet for an athlete might look like this:
- Scrambled eggs
- Whole wheat tortilla
- Chopped vegetables
- Sliced avocado
- Whole orange
- Small granola bar
- Grilled chicken
- Energy bar or whole-grain crackers
- Few slices of deli turkey
- Steamed vegetables
- Yogurt or a small amount of ice cream