How to eat healthy as an athlete

Whether swimming, jogging or football - people who do sports regularly in their spare time need more energy than others. A healthy diet is essential. Depending on the sport, the demands on a healthy diet vary. Those who want to build muscle mass, feeds differently than someone who wants to train his endurance.

Basic and performance turnover

Nevertheless, the body needs sufficient food intake for every physical activity to meet its basic needs. The composition of the food is crucial. The energy requirement of the body results from basic and power sales. The basal metabolic rate indicates the energy demand that the body consumes at rest, such as the heartbeat or breathing. He increases with the percentage of muscle mass. Any additional physical activity is added to the turnover. Depending on the activity and duration, this may fluctuate. Both basic and performance sales play an important role in sports.

Cover energy demand during sports

Which substances are primarily consumed in sports depends primarily on the intensity of the load. In short, but intense activities, the body gets its energy needs, especially from carbohydrates. These are stored in the form of glycogen stored in the liver as well as the muscles stored as a reserve substance. When the body suddenly becomes heavily loaded, the muscle glycogen is mobilized and consumed as the energy reserve of the muscles. Only with prolonged activity does the body resort to fat reserves. If the body lacks carbohydrates and fats, proteins in the liver are converted to glucose, which also provides energy. Nevertheless, there is a risk of hypoglycaemia, since under certain circumstances not enough proteins can be converted.

The result can be dizziness, weakness and nausea. In addition, it may come to food cravings and thus too high calorie intake. This can lead to unwanted weight gain. Because when the muscle glycogen storage is filled, the extra carbohydrates are converted into fat and stored as a fat reserve.

Fat burning in endurance training

If the intensity of exercise is lower, the proportion of carbohydrates that are converted for an adequate energy supply decreases. Especially in endurance sports this is the case. The body then derives its energy primarily from the burning of fat. This happens aerobically, that is under the consumption of oxygen.

Through targeted endurance training, the fat burning can be trained: The responsible for the metabolism mitochondria of the muscle cells gradually increase and can better convert fatty acids under oxygenation. However, this effect only occurs after several months of training.
Regardless of which goals athletes pursue, nonetheless, nutritional rules apply that turn sport into a healthy experience.


About half of the daily energy needs should be met by carbohydrates, as they are the most important sources of energy for mental and sports activities. They are stored in the form of glycogen among other things in the muscles. During exercise, these reserves are used to provide the necessary energy quickly. Therefore, athletes should be careful before and during exercise to provide enough carbohydrates.

By having a high carbohydrate meal with pasta or potatoes about three hours before exercise, this can be guaranteed. Smaller carbohydrate suppliers such as bananas can also be eaten just before the sport, because they do not burden the digestion so much. Care should be taken to replenish the carbohydrate storage after exercise to allow the body to regenerate. Optimal here are foods that release energy quickly. For this purpose, foods with a high glycemic index come into question, such as white flour products and sugar-containing products.

But beware: many recreational athletes overestimate their energy consumption and take too many calories after exercise. The carbohydrates, which the body can not use immediately, it converts into fat. Suitable carbohydrate-rich foods are whole grains, pasta, potatoes, rice, fruits and vegetables, as they provide besides the supply of energy also to ensure that the body with enough fiber, vitamins and minerals.


Proteins are important for building new muscle cells. Both strength and endurance athletes should pay attention to a sufficient protein intake. A recording of 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight considered the German Society of Nutrition as sufficient. Sports medicine, however, tend to higher values ​​of up to 1.5 grams. The role of proteins for athletes has long been overestimated. Excessive protein intake may even pose risks as its metabolic end products are excreted via the kidney and can be damaged by overuse.

In addition, attention should be paid to a balanced mixture of animal and vegetable proteins. Although animal protein is more valuable than vegetable protein, it is recommended that you do not consume more than 50 percent of it. Animal proteins can raise cholesterol levels and are often linked to fat consumption. For athletes suitable animal products are eggs, fish, low-fat meat and low-fat dairy products. Vegetable proteins are found mainly in cereal products, nuts and potatoes.


Despite its bad reputation, fat is a vital component of the body. It serves as upholstery of organs, as an energy reserve and transporter of important fat-soluble vitamins in the body. Although athletes are advised to reduce the amount of fat in their diets in favor of protein and carbohydrates, total abstinence would be unhealthy.

About 30 percent of the energy requirement should be absorbed by every athlete in the form of fats. Similar to proteins, fat is not just fat. Animal fats contain unsaturated fatty acids that can increase blood lipid levels and cholesterol levels. Experts therefore advise a moderate consumption of animal products no more than two to three times a week. Unsaturated fatty acids, which are mainly present in nuts and vegetable oils, should be preferred in a ratio of three to one.


Through sport activities the body loses fluid. The background is the higher energy consumption, which is largely converted into heat. To prevent overheating, the body sweats fluid. This evaporates on the skin and cools the body in this way. The body can lose up to two liters of fluid in one hour in this way. This loss of fluid must be restored to the body by sufficient drinking. If this is not done, fluid is removed from the blood and tissue. The result is a decrease in the flow rate of the blood, which can lead to an undersupply of the cells with oxygen.

Due to the circulatory disorder, the performance limits and vomiting, muscle spasms and dizziness threaten. That is why it is important to drink enough during and after sports activities. An adult needs about 2.5 liters per day. Depending on the athletic load this need must be adjusted accordingly.

Athletes are advised to drink 100 to 200 milliliters of fluid approximately every 20 minutes. The drink should not be cooler than 25 degrees Celsius, otherwise energy must be expended to heat the drink to body temperature. Suitable is mineral water, because it can supply the flushed minerals again. Also juice spritzers are good liquid suppliers, which they provide electrolytes as well as energy in the form of fructose of juices.

Vitamins and minerals

Basically, recreational athletes do not necessarily need more minerals than people who do not exercise regularly. Although the body loses water-soluble minerals and vitamins while exercising, a deficiency can not normally occur. The increased demand of athletes for vitamins and minerals can usually be regulated very well through the intake of food, since with a slight deficiency the appetite already ensures that the corresponding nutrients are simply absorbed.

For professional and competitive athletes it looks a bit different. A vitamin and mineral deficiency can limit their performance and be compensated by the consumption of fruits, vegetables and mineral water.

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