Nutrition for Athletes: The basics for speed athletes

chicken, rice and vegetables

"Good levels of nutrition for athletes  are needed for them to compete at their best. It's important that their nutrition is on point so that they are provided with the energy to meet the high demands of training and competition. Although highly important, it's still possible for athletes to get overwhelmed by trying to perfect their diet. This does not have to be the case...keep on track of your diet with the easy to follow guidelines set out in this article".

Basic nutrition for athletes

We all know that nutrition for athletes is important. What you put into your body will have an effect on your performance, so it’s a good idea to stick to an optimal diet for your goal. Of course everyone is different and could have different needs, but you must base your nutritional intake on your goal and the needs of your sport.

Sprinting is a power based activity and therefore you must base your nutrition on this. Nutrition for athletes who are looking to emphasise their speed is quite similar across all power based sports but differs from greatly athletes who compete in midlle/long distance events, or need high levels of cardio. 

This means sticking to high amounts of protein, healthy fats and strategic carbs (which just means selecting the optimal times to eat carbs). 

Nutrition for athletes: Is there a perfect diet?

Elaine Thompson celebrating

Although nutrition is highly important, too often people get caught up in trying to have the ‘perfect’ diet. Trying to keep to a strict diet with the thought that you will lose all your training efforts if you were to deviate from it will drive you mad. The truth is that not a lot will happen if you have your favourite snack once in a while. You can bet that the top athletes do!

“At first I ate a box of 20 for lunch, then another for dinner.” “The next day I had two boxes for breakfast, one for lunch and then another couple in the evening. I even grabbed some fries and an apple pie to go with it.”

Usain Bolt talking about how many chicken nuggets he ate during the 2008 Olympic Games in Bejing, taken from his autobiography, Faster than Lightning. 

chicken nuggets and chips

Now I’m not saying you should do this (we all know Usain Bolt is a different type of beast) but it shows that everyone is human and we all have our indulgences. You also have to ask yourself, how effective your training plan actually is if a few snacks can derail months of training?

What are the main food sources?

man trying to open jar


Protein is a vital food source as it is needed to help restore muscle fibres after they are damaged during training. Protein can also be used as an energy source when carbohydrate and fat stores have been depleted.

You should try and consume at least 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for your daily calorie intake. Your protein should come from chicken breasts, lean meat, fish, eggs and low fat dairy.

Carbohydrates and fats

Carbohydrates and fats will provide you with the energy you need for repetitive training sessions. Good sources of carbohydrates include, rice, pasta, whole grains, fruits, beans and vegetables.

Your fats should come from nuts, seeds, fish and vegetable oil.

Guidelines for athletes

The best thing is to stick to a diet that is easy to follow. Having a few simple guidelines, rather than having a strict diet plan and scheduled eating times is best. Unless you are competing at the highest level in your sport then attempting to be so strict is often unrealistic and demoralising.  This can ultimately lead to worse performances if it affects you mentally.  

Easy to follow nutrition plan

Once you’ve set your dietary guidelines, following the basic nutrition plan below will ensure that you do not gain excess weight and that your body is provideed with fuel for optimal performance and recovery. 

  • Drink a glass of water upon waking.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Around 8-10 glasses (this could be more depending on temperature and exercise levels. It’s extremely important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Don't wait until you are very thirsty or dehydrated to have something to drink. This does not include coffee, juices etc.
  • Eat protein with every meal. Roughly about a handful of any high protein source with every meal. I personally eat a lot of chicken breasts and mackerel. But it can be whatever you like. Things like steak, salmon etc. See a list of food sources here.
  • Consume the majority of your carbs before and after training . Consume carbs within 2 hours after training to begin the recovery process. 
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