Nutrition for Athletes: The Basics for Speed Athletes

chicken, rice and vegetables

"Athletes need good levels of nutrition to be able 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, do not get overwhelmed by trying to perfect your diet. Keep on track of your nutrition with the easy to follow guidelines set out in this article".

Basic Nutrition for Athletes

We all know that nutrition is important for athletes.

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 also 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 greatly from athletes who compete in middle/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.”

chicken nuggets and chips

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

Now I’m not suggesting you should do this (we all know Usain Bolt is a different type of beast) but it shows that even one of the best athletes in the world eat foods that are considered less than ideal for performance, or even unhealthy! 

You also have to ask yourself, how effective your training plan actually is if a snack or enjoying one of your favourite meals can derail months of training?

The key is to be strict with your habits. By this I mean, if you want to enjoy something that you know isn't great for you then have a little infrequently. Don't eat a lot of rubbish all the time, or else this will ruin any train efforts that your making. 

What are the Main Food Sources?

man trying to open jar

Protein

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 carbohydrates and fats 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 sources such as 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  cab come from sources such as nuts, seeds, fish and vegetable oil.

Guidelines for Athletes

The best thing is to stick to a nutritional plan that is easy to follow. 

Sticking to a few simple guidelines is more attainable than having a strict diet and scheduled eating times.

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 as it can affect your mental well being.   

Easy to Follow Nutrition Plan

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

  • 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, eggs, quinoa 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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