Sports & Wellness

Sports Nutrition and What You Need to Know

10 Feb 2022

Nutrition plays a big role in sports performance. Learn more about what sports nutrition consists of and how it can benefit players of any sport.

Sports open up doors for college scholarships and admissions. If you decided to go pro, like Tom Brady, you could make around $235 million with the Patriots. Hard work and determination are required, but without the proper sports nutrition, everything will go down the drain.

You need to fuel your body with the right food, energy, nutrients, and water. These components will keep your body hydrated and working optimally. That means eating healthy can get you that winning touchdown, so continue reading to learn more about sports nutrition and why it matters.

The Macronutrients in Sports Nutrition

Athletes eating for sports need around 2.5 to 3 grams per pound of bodyweight of macronutrients. Endurance athletes require 3 to 4.5 grams per pound of body weight. Here is some basic information about each macronutrient:


Carbohydrates can be simple or complex and are the body's primary energy source. They are sugars found naturally in fruits, vegetables, and milk.

Whole grain bread, potatoes, veggies, and oats are all examples of complex carbohydrates that are beneficial to your health. Your digestive system breaks down the carbs into glucose or blood sugar. Glucose provides a valuable energy source for your cells, tissues, and organs.


Proteins consist of amino acids and ensure proper cell functioning. A complete protein includes all of the amino acids that the body needs. It also comes from animal sources like meat, fish, poultry, and milk.

Incomplete protein sources often lack one or more essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are not synthesized by the body and must be obtained from your diet. This is why protein is critical for muscle healing and development.



Saturated or unsaturated fats both perform critical roles in the human body. Unsaturated fats are beneficial and are found in plant-based foods such as olive oil and almonds. Healthy fats fuel the body, facilitate growth, protect your organs, and maintain the cell membranes.

Saturated fats are present in animal products like red meat and high-fat dairy products. They are often linked to cardiovascular diseases and high cholesterol.

Eating for Exercise and Athletic Performance

Carbohydrates or fats will be the primary source of energy for the body, depending on the intensity and duration of the exercise. Adults who exercise three to four times per week can usually meet their nutritional requirements with a normal, healthy diet. 

Moderate to elite athletes who train five to six times per week will need more nutrients. For instance, research indicates that extreme cyclists competing in the Tour de France burn approximately 12,000 calories per day.

Carbohydrates for Athletes

Carbohydrate consumption is based on body size and training parameters. Daily carbohydrate requirements vary between 45 and 65 percent of total food consumption. 

Protein for Athletes

Proteins are necessary for muscle development and recovery. Sufficient protein intake contributes to the body's positive nitrogen balance, critical for muscle tissue repair. Protein needs vary significantly by body weight, ranging from 0.8g to 2g per kilogram per day. 

Fats for Athletes

Fats contribute to energy balance, hormone regulation, and muscular tissue repair. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are vital components for a sports nutrition diet. According to research, an athlete's diet should contain 30 percent of healthy fats.


Sports Nutrition for Endurance

Endurance training consists of one to three hours of moderate to vigorous exercise every day. It is essential to consume a high amount of energy from carbohydrates. Endurance athletes should consume between 6g and 10g of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight every day. 

The body uses fats as supplemental energy sources during prolonged exercise sessions. Keep in mind that athletes are prone to dehydration. It is vital to replenish fluids and electrolytes lost for best performance.

Sports Nutrition for Strength

Resistance training is a high-intensity exercise to strengthen the muscle. Muscle growth demands an adequate supply of all macronutrients.

Protein consumption is critical for increasing and maintaining lean body mass. Protein needs range between 1.2g and 3.1g per kilogram of body weight per day.

The Relationship Between Nutrition and Cognitive Performance

The brain is 2 per cent of the average human weight but uses over 20 per cent of your caloric intake. That's a large consumption for such a small organ. Here is some nutrient information to keep your brain alive:

Fats for the Brain

Healthy fats, like Omega-3 fatty acids, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated can enhance memory and cognition. Saturated and trans fats have been shown to impair memory while raising LDL cholesterol. 

LDL is responsible for plaque formation in the brain. This plaque has been associated with the onset of Alzheimer's disease. 

Proteins for the Brain 

Consuming protein increases tyrosine levels in the brain. Tyrosine metabolism leads to an increase in norepinephrine and dopamine. These substances increase the alertness and energy levels of the brain. 

Minerals for the Brain 

Your brain needs minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, and sodium to function properly. Minerals serve various roles, including nerve cell maintenance and brain cell fueling.

Vitamins for the Brain 

Vitamin B has been shown to promote nerve function and convert tryptophan to other neurotransmitters. This conversion improves mood and sleep. Vitamins C and E preserve cognitive functioning over time and help ward off dementia.


Sports Hydration and Performance

While we all lose salt and water throughout the day, athletes lose more through sweating. Dehydration occurs when the body loses water and experience a fluid deficiency above 2% of body weight. This can impair sports performance and cognitive function. 

Athletes are advised to include fluid and electrolyte replacement into their sports nutrition plan. Rehydration with water and sodium-containing sports beverages is highly recommended.

How Can You Learn More About Sports Nutrition?

You may be an active adult or a competitive athlete looking to improve your health and performance. In any case, nutrition for fitness can enhance your performance, speed up recovery, and prevent exhaustion. Eating the wrong food can cause fatigue, lack of focus, and injuries.

So the question is, how do you know what to eat or what not to eat? The solution is to get a reliable coach to develop a solid plan to get you on track. Feel free to check out our list of expert sports nutrition coaches to guide you through this journey.

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