Most professional athletes train between 30 and 40 hours per week, and it shows. Their physical strength and appearance are something to be envied, and a big contributing factor to their physique is diet.
Athletes may choose different types of diets depending on their sport. Some are interested in building heavy muscle, while others need to stay light and trim. Regardless, there are certain nutritional habits common to every athlete—including getting the right amount and balance of foods. Because they are so active, most athletes eat between 2,500 and 5,000 calories a day and need to find ways to meet their calorie quota with healthy, nutrient-dense food.
Here is an example of what a typical professional athlete might eat in a day.
- Fruits and vegetables. Not only are fruits and vegetables packed with fiber, which keeps the metabolism fast and active, but they also provide essential vitamins and minerals that can aid in hydration, muscle building and recovery.
- Whole grain carbohydrates. Athletes tend to stick to whole grain carbohydrates, which provide a quick source of energy before a workout but don’t lead to the same bloating and inflammation caused by refined carbohydrates and sugar. Examples include oatmeal and whole grain bread.
- Water. Proper hydration is crucial for athletic performance. Experts recommend drinking two cups of fluid prior to training and four to six ounces about every 15 minutes during exercise. Without enough water, athletes can experience dehydration, cramps, poor concentration and other negative health symptoms.
- Protein. Athletes need to consume more protein than the average person in order to build and repair muscle. They typically choose low-fat and sometimes non-animal protein sources in order to keep cholesterol levels low. High sources of protein include eggs, meat, fish, nuts, and beans. They may supplement with protein powders or pre-workout and post-workout smoothies.