How many calories should an athlete eat?

In this article we are going to answer how many calories should an athlete eat, what is an athlete, what food should an athlete eat, what food should an athlete avoid, and what food should an athlete avoid. 

How many calories should an athlete eat?

Calories an athlete needs depends on the sport they are playing. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics athlete’s needs:

  • Female athletes need about 2,500 to 4,000 calories
  • Male athletes 3,000 to 6,000 calories

It depends on the individual and sports performance and there are some athletes that might need up to 5,000 to 6,000 calories. Calorie intake is base con a person’s age, sex, weight, height, and activity level so the general recommendation might be lower or higher for each athlete. 

A general recommendation depending on the sport includes:

  • Endurance athletes might need about 3,000 calories up to 6,000-8,000 calories per day. 
  • Team sports athletes that include only short bursts might need about 3,000 calories up to 4,500 calories per day. 
  • Powerlifters or gymnastics might need about 2,000 calories up to 6,000 calories per day. 

It is very important to mention that athletes need a medical team and a nutritionist to follow up on their needs because diet and caloric needs might change depending if they are in competition, resting, practicing, etc. 

What is an athlete?

According to the dictionary, an athlete is a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or gaming requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina. Athletes can be professional or amateurs and their caloric intake depends on this too. 

What food should an athlete eat?

Diet is very important for athletes because it is their main source of energy and depending on how well they eat is how they will perform. It is not only about calories, it is about nourishing the body with the exact amount of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and calories the body needs. 

Athletes need to eat food that will meet their demands of training and exercise and that will help them adapt and recover between sessions. A basic guide of what food an athlete need includes

  • A variety of whole grains such as bread, cereal, pasta, and potatoes. 
  • A huge variety of vegetables especially leafy greens 
  • Fruit, all fruits should be eaten
  • Lean meat 
  • Low-fat dairy products 
  • Healthy fats such as avocado, nuts, pistachios, and almonds. 

An athlete does not have boundaries with food except for junk food. A normal intake of an athlete should include 45 to 65% of carbohydrates, 15 to 25% of protein, and 20 to 35% of fat. 

Depending on the type of exercise, athletes might need more carbohydrates especially if they do strenuously exercise for more than 60 to 90 minutes every day. In this case, whole grains and fruit should be eaten in larger quantities. 

Why are carbohydrates so important for athletes?

Athletes should never stay away from carbohydrates, never. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for all humans and especially for athletes, carbohydrates are very important. 

Athletes can use their glycogen storage very easily, especially if they exercise for more than 60 to 90 minutes every day. 

Abstaining from eating carbohydrates might interfere with a person’s ability to exercise and they might compromise their performance in the short and long run. 

Carbohydrate recommendation is based on the duration, frequency, and intensity of the exercise. 

  • Light intensity exercise for 30 minutes per day requires 3 to 5 grams per kilogram per day of carbohydrates
  • Moderate intensity exercise for 60 minutes per day requires 5 to 7 grams per kilogram per day of carbohydrates
  • Endurance exercise for 1 to 3 hours per day requires 6 to 10 grams per kilogram per day of carbohydrates
  • Extreme endurance exercise for more than 4 hours per day requires 8 to 12 grams per kilogram per day of carbohydrates 

Simple carbohydrates might be a good idea if you need rapid energy or need to restore your glycogen storage fast. 

What food should an athlete avoid?

Food is the main source of energy for an athlete. Without good quality food, they can put at risk the quality and how well they can perform as athletes. Some food that athletes should avoid include

  • Traditional sports drink full of sugar
  • Energy drink
  • Sugary drinks
  • Alcohol
  • White bread
  • Junk food
  • Candy 

Follow this link for more information about athletes’ diets. 

Conclusion

This article answered how many calories should an athlete eat, what is an athlete, what food should an athlete eat, what food should an athlete avoid, and what food should an athlete avoid. 

Citation 

https://www.livestrong.com/article/30782-daily-caloric-requirements-athletes/

https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/caloric-needs-athletes-7179.html

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/sporting-performance-and-food

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