Sports Nutrition for Athletes

 

Adequate nutrition plays a vital role in how athletes perform. If an athlete spends time working out two or more hours a day, their nutritional needs will be greater than that of the average person. These are just the recommendations for an athlete’s macronutrient consumption.

Calculating Estimated Caloric Intake

There are several equations that are beneficial for figuring out an athlete’s ideal caloric intake. Two of the most popular are the Harrison-Benedict Equation and the Mifflin Equation

Harrison-Benedict Equation

For men: 66.5 + (13.8 x weight in kilograms) + (6.25 x height in centimeters) – (6.8 X age), then multiply by activity factor, shown below

For women: 655.1 + (9.6 x weight in kilograms) + (1.8 x height in centimeters) – (4.7 x age), then multiply by activity factor

Mifflin Equation

Males: (10 x weight in kilograms) + (6.25 x height in centimeters) – (5 x age) +5, then multiply by activity factor

Females: (10 x weight in kilograms) + (6.25 x height in centimeters) – (5 x age) – 161, then multiply by activity factor

Activity factor

1.2- sedentary (little to no exercise)

1.375- lightly active (light exercise 1-3 days per week)

1.55- moderate (moderate exercise 3-5 days per week)

1.725- very active (hard exercise 6-7 days per week)

1.9- extra active (very hard exercise, physical job, or 2 times training

2.0- extreme activities (elite level athletics)

 

It is important to know how to calculate your specific caloric needs as an athlete. This can help you determine where you need to be to maintain weight and energy levels. As said before, your needs will be higher than those of the general population so it is important to know where you should be.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrate intake is vital for athletes. It is what your body runs off when it is active. Your carbohydrate intake should be 45-65% of your daily caloric intake. Very light activity levels should consume 3-5 grams per kilogram of body weight. Moderate Training should consume 5-7 grams per kilogram. Endurance and high-intensity intermittent should be consuming 6-10 grams per kilogram. Ultra-endurance athletes should consume 8-12 grams per kilogram. These recommendations are from day to day eating. This should be accomplished through eating healthy carbohydrates including whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Cutting carbohydrates can be dangerous for athletes so it is important that you get plenty of carbohydrate intake.

Prior to Activity: 4 hours away from activity, the athlete should consume 4 grams per kilogram of carbohydrates. The intake decreases by 1 gram for each hour closer to activity.

During activity: athletes should consume 30-60 grams of carbohydrate for every hour they are exercising. Ultra-endurance athletes should consume 60-90 grams every hour.

After activity: athletes should consume 1-1.2 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight within the first 15-30 minutes after activity.

Protein

Protein intake should be 10-35% of daily calories. As with carbohydrate intake, the actual recommended intake varies depending on the type of athlete. Endurance athletes are recommended to intake 1.4-1.4 grams of protein per kilogram. Ultra-endurance athletes should consume 1.2-2.0 grams per kilogram. Strength gain athletes should consume 1.6-2.0 grams per kilogram. Body builders should consume 5-7 grams per kilogram unless they are in the cutting phase, then they would consume 2.3-3.1 grams per kilogram. If an athlete chooses to have a vegetarian diet, they need to increase their protein intake by 10%.

Prior to activity: Athletes should eat up to 40 grams of protein 3 hours before activity. It is best if it is from lean protein sources.

During activity: Protein intake should follow a 4 to 1 or 3 to 1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein.

After activity: athletes should consume at least 20 grams of protein. This can be up to 40 grams of protein. It can also be calculated by 0.3 grams per kilogram of body weight. This protein should be consumed within the first hour after activity, ideally it should be consumed with post activity carbohydrate.

Fats

Fat intake should make up 20-35% of daily calories. It usually makes up whatever leftover calories you have after protein and carbohydrate recommendations are met. It usually is about 1-3 grams per kilogram of body weight. This is regardless of what type of exercise you do.

There are no current recommendations for fat consumption during and after activity

Hydration

It is important to get proper hydration. Hydration in athletics is more than just drinking water. You must make sure to be consuming enough electrolytes, particularly sodium and potassium.

Prior to activity: Athletes should drink 5-10 milliliters of fluid per kilogram of body weight. They should also consume 170-200 milligrams of sodium per 8 ounces of fluid.

During activity: At minimum, athletes should consume 1.5-3.5 cups (400-800 milliliters) of fluid during activity. To get a more specific amount of fluid, use the sweat rate formula. This is (weight difference x 16) + fluid consumed/ amount of time in activity. You should only lose 2% of your body weight while sweating. You should weigh yourself before and after exercise to help determine this. If you lose more, you will need to drink more fluid during activity. Athletes should consume 170-200 milligrams of sodium per 8 ounces of fluid if they are aggressive sweaters and they are exercising for 2 or more hours. They should consume 20-50 milligrams of potassium for every 8 ounces of fluid consumed.

Recovery: For every pound lost, you should drink 2.5-3 cups of fluid to replace that.