Nutrition for High-Performance Athletes

November 03, 2022

4 foods to include in every athlete's diet

A correct diet facilitates exercise and aids muscle recovery. Nutrition must be integrated as accurately as possible into the training plan. Every athlete must consider their individual effort profile (strength, speed, endurance). Competitive athletes use more energy than recreational gym goers. 

An athlete with an average body weight who trains regularly and intensively five or six days a week will undoubtedly expend and require more energy than someone who goes for a run on the weekends. High-performance athletes have complex and demanding diets in order to increase endurance, and perform their best at competitions. 

Elite and/or high-performance athletes have a higher and more intense level of activity, their bodies are subject to overexertion, and their goals are different, so they usually have different needs that must be prioritized at all times. They must be on a balanced diet, and there's no doubt about it.

Food variety is very important (more variety, more nutrients), while vegetables (fruits, vegetables, greens, nuts, and seeds) should always be present with each main course. The following four foods are of greater importance for athletes and their performance. 

Here are 4 most important foods to include in the athlete's diet:

  1. Oily fish 

Salmon, herring, mackerel, or trout contain proteins and Omega-3 fatty acids that make the blood more fluid and reduce inflammation. 

Reducing inflammation is one of the most sought after nutrient properties in sports diets since athletes endure extreme physical effort and their muscles and joints get inflamed quite often.   

Inflamed joints and muscles are the most common injury risk among high-performance athletes. 

Omega-3 is a fatty acid known as 'essential' because the body cannot produce it and it can only be incorporated through food. Fish that contains Omega-3 fatty acids can be added to salads, pasta, or sushi. 

  1. Leafy green vegetables

Purslane, watercress, cabbage, celery, spinach, and broccoli are the most nutritious leafy green vegetables, vital for athletes' health.

Adding these leafy greens to smoothies and salads daily will increase Magnesium (it aids with muscle relaxation), folic acid (necessary for the production of red blood cells), vitamin K (vital for healthy and strong bones), and vegetable iron. 

In addition, they have a higher concentration of fiber and antioxidants than other vegetables. Plus, purslane is known as the only vegetable rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which is a true wonder of nature. There's no doubt that this plant must find its way to the menu of every high-performing athlete. 

  1. Quinoa

Quinoa is a superfood rich in proteins and good fats that reduce 'bad' cholesterol levels in the blood. This cereal is also packed with carbohydrates, such as starch that help in the digestive processes, minerals, and vitamins, including complex B, C, and E. 

As if this were not enough, quinoa also provides the nine essential amino acids that the body needs to generate pure muscle and recover from extreme workouts. 

It can be a good substitute for pasta, only providing more nutrients and energy, which is why it is widely consumed in the sports world. 

Cereals as the main source of carbohydrates should be present in the daily diet of high-performance athletes and especially the ones looking for an extra energy boost for their training and competition. 

The amount of carbohydrates in the diet is determined by the reserves of glycogen (glucose), the resistance to fatigue, as well as the optimization of the athletic conditions of each athlete.

  1. Nuts 

Nuts are rich in healthy, unsaturated fats. The body needs fatty acids as a source of energy, so the daily consumption of nuts fulfills this purpose. Almonds, walnuts, and their by-products are especially recommended because they are easy to digest and help balance blood sugar when combined with carbohydrates. 

They also provide a large amount of fiber and magnesium, which facilitates the delivery of calcium and potassium to the muscles. Nuts are high in calories however, so this needs to be kept in mind in order to avoid putting on weight. 

Final Word

High-performing athletes must have well-balanced diets, including vitamins, minerals, Omega-3 fatty acids, carbs, and lots of leafy green veggies. 

Professional athletes spend double or more energy than, for example, recreational gym goers or runners. This is the reason why their diet must be adequately designed for their extreme energy needs. 

High-performance athletes follow personalized diet plans during all their active sports life, having it as part of the daily routine that helps them provide maximum results.