How Nutrition Affects Sports Performance 

Nutrition has an effect on everything you do, but it is especially important to get it on-point if you want to improve your sports performance.

We’re going to discuss the impact of your nutrition on performance as well as your energy and nutrition needs and how to meet them.


Nutrition’s Effect of Sports Performance

Food is fuel, and when you’re burning that fuel as an athlete, you need to be running on premium.

Whether you are a serious competitive athlete or just enjoy competing in the occasional race or pick-up game, your diet can have a major impact on your performance.

The best diet for an athlete isn’t that different than for your average healthy person, but there is more at stake if an athlete doesn’t get adequate calories, macronutrients, fluids, vitamins, and minerals.

Sports tend to push your body and add stress to your system, not having proper nutrition to support both being active and your body’s recovery can not only negatively affect performance, but it can cause short- and long-term damage to your body.

Some issues might be poor athletic performance, longer recovery times, immune suppression, weight changes, and hormonal imbalances.

Energy and Nutrition Requirements for Athletes

Athletes at any level need energy, and we get energy through calories. In addition to daily caloric needs (basal metabolic rate, or BMR), athletes need additional energy to support both performance and recovery.

The higher your activity level, the higher your calorie requirements will be. The energy needs of athletes might amaze you! Some athletes need between 2,000 and 3,000 calories daily.

Professional and Olympic athletes, while in training, need even more, and that number can be astounding. However, it’s important to note that many people tend to overestimate their caloric burn during a workout and overcompensate with calories afterward.

Just be aware of the amount and quality of food you eat and remember that the goal is fuel and not reward.

How to Meet Your Nutritional Needs

When thinking of calories as energy, it’s helpful to know that the amount of energy for food depends on its macronutrient make-up: Carbohydrates have 4 kcal/gram, protein has 4 kcal/gram, and fat has 9 kcal/gram.

Macronutrients are the dietary elements that we need for health, and athletes especially need a diet that includes a balance of the three macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

  • Carbohydrates – Look for whole grains and plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Protein – Eat lean protein like fish, chicken, lean beef, eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
  • Fat – Good sources of fat are low in saturated fat, like nuts, nut butter, avocados, and olive oil.

Don’t forget your fluids! Water is the most important essential nutrient for athletes, and to maintain proper hydration, you should make it part of your daily planning.

Drink plenty of water with each meal, and target drinking one-half of your body weight (in pounds) in ounces of water.

For example, if you are 140 lbs, you need at least 70 oz. of water daily.