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Healthy nutrition for athletes: It's easy with these 4 tips

Healthy diet for athletes

This is how healthy nutrition works for you as an athlete

Healthy nutrition for athletes – actually no witchcraft

The question of the “perfect” diet seems more present than ever. Almost every day new miracle diets appear: increase in performance, extension of life span or simply a better quality of life. Everything seems achievable through proper nutrition.

Clearly, a healthy diet (for athletes) can improve the quality of life and performance. Longevity can be influenced in that the risk of certain diseases such as diabetes mellitus or obesity is reduced. 

However, a miracle diet is not necessary for this.

Also, overall, the matter of healthy eating as an athlete is not as complicated as it is often made out to be (for marketing reasons).

With the following four tips, which are easy to implement, you can definitely take a big step towards healthy eating.

4 tips for a healthy diet as an athlete

Simply put: A balanced, plant-heavy and nutrient-rich diet is enough to lay a good foundation for your (training) everyday life.

The guidelines for a healthy diet are not a world novelty, they are actually also known to the majority of the population. And yet – if you look at case numbers of the so-called diseases of civilization, for example – a large proportion of people fail to adhere to these guidelines.

Without going into any details that complicate the topic of nutrition (often unnecessarily), we therefore give you practical tips that make it easier for you to eat healthy as an athlete.

Optimize the intake of macronutrients

The macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Optimally, all three of these nutrients end up on your plate at every meal. Why?

Macronutrients have, among other things, the task of providing you with energy. The most important energy suppliers are carbohydrates. (You can learn more about carbohydrates HERE learn more).

For this reason, it is recommended to supply about 50% of the energy through carbohydrates. If too few carbohydrates are supplied, this usually has two possible consequences:

  1. The insufficient intake of carbohydrates leads to a compensatory increase in fat intake. This can result in an increase in body fat content, which can have a negative impact on performance, but also on health.

However, this fact should not lead to the conclusion that fats are bad. This is a generalization that is not correct.

Fats also need to find a place on your plate. Be careful, however, that they don’t replace carbohydrates as the primary source of energy.

  1. Another consequence of too little carbohydrate intake is often a general lack of energy. You can find out how one affects your health HERE.

Eat lots of fruits & vegetables

Even the smallest ones probably know this tip, but why should you as an athlete pay special attention to it?

Fruits and vegetables provide you with important antioxidants and secondary plant compounds, among other things.

Antioxidants are protective substances that help your body fight free radicals. Free radicals exhibit a number of negative properties. Thus, they weaken your immune system, impair your regeneration and promote cell damage.

Free radicals are created (among other things) when your body enters a stressful situation, such as prolonged physical exertion. 

Thus, constant exercise stress causes a relatively large accumulation of these harmful oxygen radicals. Exactly this makes the supply of protective substances through fruits and vegetables especially important for you as an athlete.

Fruits and vegetables also provide important micronutrients. You need micronutrients for a resilient and healthy body. Why do you learn

Now the statement “eat a lot of fruits and vegetables” is a bit vague. After all, “a lot” is hard to weigh. The DGE (German Nutrition Society) helps us here by creating the 5-a-day rule.

The 5-a-day rule is a simple and effective guideline that can easily be put into practice.

The rule is: try to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day!

A serving is defined as a full hand. The optimal division of fruits and vegetables is into 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit.

If you also use healthy sports nutrition products around your workouts that already contain plenty of natural antioxidants, this will also help to improve your intake of protective substances.

That is why we also rely on abundant natural ingredients in our products. You can get to know the special properties of individual ingredients in (our) sports nutrition products better in our ACTIVE INGREDIENT ENCYCLOPEDIA to get to know them better.

Reduce your meat consumption

The “best” diet from today’s scientific point of view is a plant-based mixed diet. This means that plant products such as vegetables, lentils, chickpeas and fruit should be the basis of your diet. 

However, this does not mean that animal products such as yogurt, meat or fish must be completely banned from your diet.

Our nutrition expert Robert Gorgos has created a table with foods that are particularly suitable for you as an athlete*In order to eat balanced and healthy in everyday training.

Of the foods listed, understandably not all should be consumed to the same extent. Which foods to consume, and how frequently, have been studied by Lucas et. al vividly summarized according to the latest findings.

Eggs, which are at the bottom of the table, can be eaten a little more often as an athlete. For athletes, eggs are an important, high-quality and above all practical source of protein.

Even if the trend of the vegan nutrition dominates at the moment very much, the science speaks out for a plant-emphasized, however not necessarily for a completely vegan nutrition.

If you completely avoid animal products, you may be missing out on some high-quality protein sources. This would have a negative impact on performance, but also on your health.

While it is absolutely possible to get plenty of protein even as a vegan, it does require some background knowledge. We would therefore not advise you to simply switch to a completely vegan diet overnight. 

In another article we will go into more detail on the topic of veganism in sports.

Do not forget the fiber

Dietary fiber is a heterogeneous group of long-chain carbohydrates that cannot be utilized by the human organism.

Since dietary fiber is not broken down enzymatically, it reaches your colon almost unchanged. In the process, they develop a number of positive properties, namely:

  • Dietary fiber has a high satiating effect.
    By dampening the feeling of hunger and providing natural satiety, excessive food intake is prevented.
  • Dietary fiber also shortens transit time.
    Transit time describes the passage time of food through a section of the digestive tract or the entire digestive tract. If this is shortened, carcinogenic substances or carcinogenic degradation substances are prevented from remaining in contact with the intestinal mucosa for too long.
  • Last but not least, dietary fiber also affects the glucose and insulin response.
    Thus, dietary fiber reduces the postprandial insulin and glucose response, both in healthy individuals and in diabetics. This makes them protective factors against diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease.

So there is no question: fiber should find enough place in your diet. To be precise, you should try to consume about 30g of fiber per day.

For athletes, however, this is not always easy, since fiber has a lot of positive properties, but is not well tolerated.

For this reason, they are often avoided by athletes in their everyday training. Therefore, it is particularly important that a lot of fiber is supplied on rest days.

Many dietary fibers are found in whole grain products, legumes, and fruits and vegetables.

Carrots, peppers, cabbage, fennel or beet are particularly rich in fiber. Water-containing vegetables such as zucchini or cucumbers, on the other hand, have somewhat less fiber.

If you are a fruit lover, it will help if you mainly use berries. Flaxseed, chia seeds, shredded coconut or wheat bran are also rich in fiber. Products like these make great toppings for your cereal, for example.

So to start your day high in fiber, you could make your porridge in the morning with berries and flax seeds.

Final note

The general statement to reduce sugar consumption also applies to you as an athlete in the context of a healthy diet. 

However, it is just as important for your performance to adjust your consumption of sugary (sports food) products to your daily (sports) goal.

In an upcoming article, we will go into more detail on the topic of sugar in sports.


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Robert Gorgos

Robert Gorgos

Robert is a authority when it comes to sports nutrition science. As a nutritionist, he coaches many well-known top athletes, including the professional cyclists from BORA – hansgrohe. At the same time, he is a competitive athlete himself. And: Robert has developed the sports nutrition of MoN Sports.

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