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How Top Competitors Fuel Their Fitness


When you exercise at high intensity for long periods, your body needs fuel to help it perform at its best. Whether you’re running, playing basketball, cycling, or swimming, burning calories means burning energy, and you need to get that back into your body. 

Professional athletes are highly conscious of the food they consume and how it contributes to their training and overall health. On game or race days, fuel becomes critical, particularly when the difference between coming in first or second hinges on the energy that pushes you just milliseconds in front of your competition. Here are a few things you need to know to eat like an athlete and tips from some of the world’s top competitors.

Athlete Nutrition: Balancing The Big Three

The three main energy-yielding nutrients are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. All three components are crucial for attaining top training results but in different amounts. Carbohydrates are our most important source of energy, because they provide fuel for our brain and muscles. Proteins contribute to muscle build-up, and fats contain essential fatty acids, which should only be consumed in small amounts due to their high energy density. Depending on the sport you play, eating some combination of these three key nutrients is key to having the energy you need. Every body type is different, and every sport requires a different kind of energy—endurance, muscular strength, cardiovascular, etc. Find the mix that works for your body and your sport. Here’s what some top athletes recommend:

Generally I eat a high-protein, not crazy high carb diet. My goal every day is to have my plate look as colorful as possible. 

Tom Daley – Diver

My average diet consists of very little dairy or sugar and mostly seafood. I eat a lot of lean protein.

Nneka Ogwumike – Forward for the L.A. Sparks

It’s All About Timing

Athletes pay a lot of attention to the timing of their nutrition—particularly on game or competition days. Eat too much and the wrong mix of nutrients before an event, and you risk feeling lethargic and tired. Don’t eat soon enough afterward, and your body won’t be as efficient rebuilding muscles and replenishing energy, which can lead to symptoms of overtraining. Here’s how the pros approach pre and post-event nutrition:

My favorite fuel before a game or competition is definitely something that will keep me full. I don’t like eating too close to game time. A lot of the time, it consists of fish and rice with vegetables.

Nneka Ogwumike – Forward for the L.A. Sparks

I fuel myself with lots of different things. I often will try and have lots of different cereal bars and snacks with me on competition days. Before or after a competition, I like to eat greek yogurt with some granola.

Tom Daley – Diver

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

The human body is more than 50% water. Without enough liquids, it can’t make good use of the nutrients you consume—no matter how healthy you’re eating. Using a liquid calculator like this one to ensure you’re getting the right amount of water back into the body is critical to avoid muscle cramps and fatigue as you compete. As many athletes will tell you—by the time you feel like you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Get in front of the symptoms and drink enough water before, during, and after your training or competition. 



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