Nutrition for Athletes


Being an athlete myself (footballer) and from speaking to my friends within the football world, I have begun to realize how poor their nutrition knowledge is and how misguided they are in terms of their own nutrition in order to optimize their performance. This is not only for footballers, but also for many other athletes I speak to.
Professional and semi professional sport is becoming more and more competitive these days. Athletes are always looking for ways to improve their performance and put them ahead of their peers. Whether this be in the gym or to do with their nutrition, lifestyle and recovery techniques, being an athlete is a full time gig. Everything you do in your life revolves around keeping your body and mind in optimum shape so you can perform at your best. High performance is crucial because for a lot of athletes their sport is their full time or part time job and their income/livelihood depends on it.
For the majority of athletes I meet, most of them are eager to do the right thing for their body and mind, in order to optimize their performance. Therefore, they dogmatically follow any information that they see as trustworthy. This information is usually from the internet, a trusted coach, mentor, friend, fellow athlete/team mate or some form of health care practitioner.

 

A lot of the time, athletes receive conflicting information from all of these different sources, which leaves them stuck, despite them wanting to do the right thing. Athletes are also usually quite compliant, so when they are presented with new information they are eager to implement it into their regime if they believe it will help them. Furthermore, like most things in the health and fitness industry, the information is usually not supported by scientific evidence, and the individual delivering the information is usually speaking from their own anecdotal experience or may be pushing a certain agenda (e.g. selling a product). Also, the information can often be quite complex, difficult to follow and difficult to implement, which sets the athlete up for failure.
 

 

Athletes have to understand that there is a life after their competing days and they need to look after their bodies so this transition can be relatively painless and healthy. Far too often you see athletes who damage their bodies in their competing days and therefore struggle with their health afterwards. Being an athlete always puts your body under stress, however it is important to try your best to support this stressful load.
Nutrition is obviously a huge part of optimizing performance, recovery and health for athletes. The food you eat is the fuel for all the metabolic processes that need to take place in order to function at your best. It is a common misconception that all athletes are healthy and eat well. However, this is not true and I have met many athletes with very poor diet and lifestyle. Some of them don’t care because they feel fine doing what they are currently doing and others are often misguided. Athletes can sometimes get away poor with diet choices, but the question is, could they be better if they ate well?
Lastly, it is also very common to see athletes put on weight after they finish competing because they ate poorly during their competing days but could get away with it.
If you are an athlete and you are wanting to support your performance with good nutrition and smart supplementation, here are some simple and user friendly tips that you can implement.

 

 

Eat right for your type.

Athletes don’t have to eat drastically different to what a healthy person should be eating. All that may change is quantities and macronutrient (carbs, fats and protein) ratios.
The recommendation of macronutrient breakdown for athletes can be divided into 3 main categories based on an athlete’s body type, metabolic tendencies and performance goals. These categories are ectomorphs, endomorphs and mesomorphs.
  • Ectomorphs: Ectomorph’s tend to be quite skinny, smaller framed individuals who are sympathetic nervous system dominant. They find it difficult to put on weight and size. They also tend to tolerate carbohydrates well (i.e. the carbs are used as energy rather than going to fat) because of their fast metabolism and high energy out put due to their sports, which are usually endurance sports that require long periods of sustained running with multiple burst of speed like soccer, AFL and endurance athletes etc.
  • Mesomorphs: Mesomorph’s tend to be naturally lean. They are naturally lean and ripped individuals. They tend to gain muscle and stay lean fairly easily. These athletes are usually the ones that want to optimize their physique and boost performance. They also tend to tolerate carbs well.
  • Endomorphs: Endomorph’s tend to be the body type which are more prone to putting on fat. These athletes juggle a fine balance between staying at a weight that they can compete at and putting on too much fat. These athletes tend to be heavier, large framed and have slow metabolisms. They don’t tolerate carbs too well (more likely to go to fat) and usually compete in strength and power sports such as weightlifting, where maximal strength and power output is required for very short bursts. These athletes may be the ones who want to shed a few kilos.
I hope you found this information useful. Please don’t try to make all of these diet and supplement changes at once. Take a gradual approach and work on implementing one habit per week until you have accumulated all of them as part of your daily routine. A slow, gradual habit based approach is the key to sustainable and long term change.
Alon Blumgart

Naturopath and Functional Medicine Practitioner. Bachelor of Health Science. Visit www.thrivenaturopathy.com for more practical, evidence based and unbiased diet and lifestyle information.

Related Post