Diet of professional athletes – what are the differences between menus of athletes practicing different sports?

Diet of professional athletes – what are the differences between menus of athletes practicing different sports?
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Vegetarianism, veganism, high-protein diet, easy-to-digest diet – the ways of nutrition of professional athletes are plenty, and each of them is selected according to the athlete’s individual preferences, expected results and practiced sport discipline.

Principles of nutrition for athletes

One of the main goals of normalizing the nutrition system for professional athletes is to reduce the frequency of anabolic doping. A properly prepared diet providing the necessary micronutrients and nutrients is to prevent the desire to artificially improve the condition with the help of illegal dietary supplements or synthetic substances.

In connection with this concept, in 1991 the International Olympic Committee for the first time organized a conference on the principles of sports nutrition. Similar events took place in 2003 and 2010. The organization created appropriate rules according to current research and recommendations from the most respected experts in the field of dietetics. The committee dealing with this issue has even developed a special practical guide to health and nutrition conducive to high physical form.


Dietary parameters

The correct nutrition plan for an athlete is designed to strengthen his body, help in metabolic processes, increase immunity, add energy and needed nutrients, and improve physical performance during training or competition. Preparing an individual diet specialists take into account the athlete’s gender, age, regeneration capabilities, practiced sport, current condition, past illnesses, allergies and required body weight.

The weight of the athlete is a particularly important aspect, as different physical values are required depending on the sport. For athletes in high performance sports such as running, swimming or marathons, every extra kilogram means an extra load, more fatigue and poorer sports performance.

In the case of sports such as martial arts, weightlifting or powerlifting, athletes reach a specific weight and lose it only before the day of weigh-in or competition – to maximize performance. A proper diet helps to achieve good physical condition, improves mood and strengthens the body before intensive effort.

Strength sports

Athletes practicing such sports as hammer throw, javelin, weightlifting, bodybuilding, swimming or middle distance running provide their bodies with ingredients to increase muscle mass and strength. For these athletes, a high-protein, carbohydrate-rich diet and proper hydration is dedicated.

Many athletes provide their bodies with carbohydrates in the form of fresh fruit, dietary supplements, special bars or isotonic drinks during competition or training – so as not to reduce energy levels and to replenish lost reserves.

Endurance sports

The diet of athletes involved in endurance sports is based on large amounts of iron, strengthening muscle endurance. Before and after training, it is recommended to consume meals high in protein and carbohydrates.

Athletes involved in marathons, cycling or triathlon should replenish fluids every ten minutes or so during the competition, as well as ensure high glycogen levels.

Team sports

Disciplines performed in groups can be divided into those more forceful and those that require excellent endurance preparation. Consider the number of players, size of the field, duration of the game, length of the season or training phases.

Research has shown that when it comes to the diet of team sports players, care should be taken not only about the physical properties of the meals, but also the impact on mental health, for example through proper hydration and supplementation. An athlete’s diet should include green vegetables rich in essential vitamins, protein to reduce micro-damage to muscle fibers and simple carbohydrates to replenish energy lost during prolonged exercise, including dark bread, rice and groats.

Featured photo: Freepik

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