How Do I Choose the Best Meal Plan for an Athlete?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2018
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Determining the best meal plan for an athlete requires the consideration of a number of factors, such as the person's age and the type of sport he or she plays. You would be wise to get professional help choosing the one that is right for you. It is still a good idea to have some basic knowledge, such as the fact that meals generally need to be balanced. As an athlete, you will likely need to consume substantially more than the average person, and this may require you to eat more often. Before a competition, you may find it necessary to alter your meals so that you consume mostly carbohydrates, but afterward it is best to immediately revert back to a balanced approach.

To begin with, you need to realize that the appropriate meal plan for an athlete is not one size fits all. There are a number of factors that need to be considered, such as age. A teenager, for example, generally has different nutritional needs than a 35-year-old. Also, you need to consider your type of sport and training method in addition to the length and intensity of those activities. For these reasons, it is best to get some professional advice for your meal planning.


In any case, the best meal plan for an athlete is generally one that is balanced. Although that may sound like the advice given to anyone, a number of differences exists. For example, as an athlete you will generally need to eat more, in quantity and frequency, than most other individuals. This will also likely involve the need for more of the nutrients that many people try to avoid, such as carbohydrates and fats. As muscles and bones are important components in athletic activity, it is important to focus on consuming regular and adequate amounts of protein and calcium.

What constitutes an appropriate meal plan for an athlete may change when you are about to participate in an intense event. At this time, you may want to prepare your body by packing it with fuel in a process known as carbohydrate loading. This generally involves altering your diet three or four days before an event so that approximately 70 percent of the calories consumed are from carbohydrates. Examples of foods that a person may want to eat in abundance during this time include pastas, potatoes, and grains.

After carbohydrate loading, the meal plan for an athlete should change again, returning back to a focus on consuming a balance of nutrients, including carbohydrates, fats, and protein. Your plan should also include consuming a meal within 30 minutes. Be very cautious about any eating plans that involve using supplements as replacements for meals, even after an event. This is a practice that should be discussed with a medical professional. It is also important to remember that any eating plan should involve consuming a lot of water because athletes need to prioritize hydration before and following training and events.

Also, if you ever feel that you have become overweight, realize that dieting for athletes is not the same as it is for an ordinary individual. Your body uses what you eat for fuel and to perform important functions, such as repairing and strengthening the muscles. As a result, extra consideration must be given to any type of meal plan that you may consider for the purpose of dieting.



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