Nutrition for the Athlete

 Sub-optimal fueling results in decreased strength and endurance, poor coordination and concentration, inadequate recover and POOR PERFORMANCE


Carbohydrates are the “fuel” for your muscles. It is the preferred fuel source for high intensity work outs. You also need carbohydrates for endurance work outs. The carbohydrate fuels the energy pathway that allows you to use fat as a fuel source during the workout. 50-65% of your fuel intake should come from Carbohydrates.

            Where do they come from? GRAINS: cereal, bread, crackers, rice, quinoa, pasta, legumes. FRUITS: fresh, dried, juiced. DAIRY: milk, soy milk, flavored milk, yogurt. VEGETABLES: fresh or cooked.


Protein is used to build, repair, and maintain body tissues. Protein will provide energy if you are not eating enough carbohydrate or fat. If you aren’t eating enough carbohydrate and fat you will have less protein available to build, repair, and maintain body tissues. 15-20% of your fuel intake should come from protein.

        Where does it come from? MEAT: meat, fish. DAIRY: eggs, cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, milk.


Fat is a major source of energy for athletes. Fat provides potentially, an unlimited source of fuel during aerobic exercise if you are eating enough carbohydrate. Eat enough fat and carbohydrate and your body will not need to tap into its glycogen reserves (that stored form of fuel in muscle tissue). Fat provides essential fatty acids that are used in every cell of the body. It provides sustained relief from hunger and enhances the flavor of foods. 25-30% of your fuel intake should come from fats.

            Where does it come from: MEAT: meat, fish. DAIRY: eggs, cheese, milk, yogurt, sour cream (not fat free). GRAINS: crackers, breads. VISIBLE FATS: nuts, legume or nut spreads, dressing, dips, butter, margarine, almond milk.


Adults are 60% water by weight on average. A hydration loss of 2% can result in poor performance. This is when thirst kicks in so it’s important to drink before you experience thirst.

            Before Exercise:

                        2 hours before: drink 12-24 oz of fluid

                        15 minutes before: drink another 8 oz fluid

            During Exercise:

Drink 8-10 oz of cold water or sports drink every 15 minutes during exercise to delay fatigue.

            After Exercise:

                        Drink 20-24 oz of water or sports drink for every one pound of sweat loss.


            Water is suitable for most recreational activities of short duration (less than 60 minutes)

            Sports Drinks will replace what is lost during activity:

                        Cool and non-carbonated

                        Sodium: provides the drive to drink and maintains sodium balance

Carbohydrate: replace glycogen in muscles and therefore muscle recovery, maintain blood sugar levels, fuel metabolic pathways. Although, high carbohydrate content will cause GI distress, sports drinks are diluted and may have several sources to facilitate absorption. Note: low carbohydrate sports drinks aren’t recovery drinks because they lack the very thing that helps the body recover (carbohydrate), they are an oxymoron.

Nutrition for the Athlete – Iron


Ferritin is the protein in the body that stores and transports iron. It reflects our iron stores.


Protein in the body’s red blood cell that transports oxygen.


Iron is an essential mineral needed for hemoglobin. We get iron from food. Iron in food comes in two forms:

            Heme Iron is very readily absorbed (up to 15%) by the human body

                        Where does it come from? Meat, Fish, and Poultry

            Non-Heme Iron is less readily absorbed (3-8%) by the human body

                        Where does it come from? Eggs, Vegetables, Grains, and some Fruits

Symptoms of Low Iron

  • Fatigue
  • Poor Concentration
  • Difficulty maintaining body temperature
  • Poor immunity with frequent bruising or infections
  • Pale skin color
  • Work hard in athletics but performance is lower than expected

Possible Causes of Low Iron Status in Athletes

  • Increased iron excretion through sweating
  • Low dietary intake or meal skipping
  • Iron loss through menses
  • Vegetarian diet without supplementation
  • Too much fiber in the diet (interferes with iron absorption)
  • Drinking tea or coffee at meals (can decrease iron absorption by 50%)

Ways to Improve

  • Include heme iron at every meal if possible
  • Increase dietary intake of iron sources
  • Include vitamin C at every meal (increases absorption of both heme and non-heme iron)
  • Avoid drinking tea or coffee with meals (decreases iron absorption by 50%)

How Much Iron Do You Need?

  • Women need 18 mg per day
  • Vegetarian women endurance athletes need 33 mg per day (because non heme iron sources are poorly absorbed).