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Diet for athletes: What should it include?

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A healthy lifestyle involves taking care of your diet and exercising. If you have just started training, you may have some questions, such as what an athlete’s diet should be like. As you know, in addition to effort, there are some other factors that interfere with performance. For example, anyone who wants to take care of themselves and get better results from their training should pay attention to what they eat.

Meal planning will help you avoid making mistakes or falling into temptations that can harm your training results. Below, we’ll find out which foods should be on your shopping list, how often you should eat each day, and ideas for post-workout meals.

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What should a diet for athletes look like?

To take care of your health and maintain strong muscles, you must provide your body with essential nutrients. Therefore, it can be said that an athlete’s diet should be balanced, i.e. based on an appropriate choice of foods and prepared in a healthy way. But not only that, an athlete’s diet should establish regular schedules and avoid consuming precooked products, ultra-processed products, sauces, pastries, etc.

Therefore, some of the essential foods in an athlete’s diet should be the following:

  • Fish. They provide the body with proteins and vitamins. The best thing is that they are low in fat, especially white fish such as cod or hake. You can also eat oily fish rich in Omega-3, such as salmon.
  • Meat. A diet for athletes should include low-fat meats such as chicken, turkey and rabbit.
  • Dairy. The idea is to consume skimmed dairy products, which will provide you with the necessary calcium and vitamin D.
  • Vegetables and fruit. According to the WHO, the recommended daily amount is 5 servings of fruit and vegetables, as they provide vitamins, antioxidants and hydration.
  • Eggs. This protein has the highest biological value and is perfect for maintaining strong muscles.

Pre and post-training nutrition

In order to achieve the desired results from sport, it is also essential to take certain aspects into accounts, such as pre and post-workout meals. Each is different and must provide certain nutrients, so take note and get the most out of them!

What should the pre-workout meal be like?

To begin with, the ideal is to have an adequate intake of carbohydrates with a low glycaemic index to prevent insulin from being released in large quantities, i.e. to prevent a glucose drop during training. A full meal should be eaten at least 3-4 hours before exercise, but if this is not possible, you can eat 1-2 hours beforehand, but the diet should be lighter. And, of course, and not least, adequate hydration is also necessary.

Here are some of the foods you can’t miss in your pre-workout diet for athletes:

  • Banana.
  • Grapes.
  • Oats.
  • Ears.
  • Brown rice.
  • Fresh broad beans.
  • Peas.
  • Paste.
  • Potatoes.
  • Dates.
  • Couscous.
  • Natural yoghurt.
  • Sweet potato.
  • Quinoa.
  • Wholemeal bread.

What should the post-workout meal be like?

Post-workout nutrition will partly depend on the sport you have done. For example, if it is strength training, it would be essential to provide protein within 30 minutes of exercise.

Ideally, you should consume about 20 grams of high-quality protein so you can consume:

  • Whey protein.
  • Carbohydrates with protein (fruit shake with protein).
  • Protein pancakes with fruit.
  • Protein bar.
  • Nuts and fruit.
  • Hydration: sodium, potassium and water.
  • Yoghurt.
  • Tuna.
  • Egg.
  • Legumes.

What foods should be included in a diet for athletes?

After finding out what a pre and post-workout diet should be like, we want to help you with this list of products that are a must in your pantry if you want to follow a healthy and balanced diet for sportsmen and women. These foods are essential if you want to optimise your performance, both in sport and in your day-to-day life:

  1. Oats. It is a cereal rich in complex carbohydrates that are processed slowly, i.e. this will allow you to get great energy in the long term, but also vitamins and minerals.
  2. Nuts, such as walnuts and almonds. They are an excellent source of healthy fats essential in endurance sports.
  3. Eggs. Not only is it an excellent source of protein, but it also provides a wealth of minerals and nutrients.
  4. Banana. It provides energy, carbohydrates and potassium, making it an ideal pre- and post-workout food.
  5. Brown rice. It is a very complete cereal that will provide you with the necessary doses of energy, fibre and nutrients.
  6. Lean protein, i.e. chicken, turkey, white fish, etcetera.

How often does an athlete have to eat?

The amount of food will depend on each body, as each person has different nutritional needs that rely not only on weight and height but also on our daily calorie expenditure. After knowing everything that an athlete should consume, according to Health, the rhythm of meals can be between 4-5 a day. In this way, a better distribution of calories and nutrients is achieved. In addition, you will arrive at the main meals with less feeling of hunger.

Post-workout meal ideas

If you’re just starting in sport and you’re a bit lost when it comes to diet for athletes, we want to help you with a series of ideas for post-workout meals that you’re going to love:

  • Oatmeal porridge. Ideal for breakfast or after sport. You can combine them with nuts and fruits.
  • Chicken with boiled potatoes. A simple meal that won’t take much time.
  • Scrambled eggs with mushrooms. You can also serve it with some cheese and a piece of fruit.
  • Rice with tuna. An easy and simple dinner to provide both carbohydrates and protein.
  • Quinoa and chicken salad. A delicious dish that will provide you with plenty of quality protein and fibre.

Now you know what a diet for athletes should be like, and even what foods you should eat daily. But, before starting any diet, if you have just started training, the best thing to do before starting any diet is to get professional advice.

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