How Diet Affects An Athlete's Performance

Success for an athlete is dependent on what they eat, but even the top athletes fail to eat properly

Photo by Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis on Unsplash

Many people call me boring but others call me obsessive.

And that’s just about my diet. Yet it works for me and has helped me heal and compete over the years.

But, what about sportspeople and their diet?

The reality is they are competing to win and every little thing that they do in their lives affects their performance on game day.

When the lockdown hit in early 2020 many people fell out of habit with their eating patterns, but athletes were still competing and had to be aware of their diets as well.

But as time went by and sporting competitions were postponed indefinitely, the human reality began to hit home and, athletes’ needs were put on the back foot.

As many athletes are young and live a busy day between college, work, practice, training, and games they have their meals prepared for them daily. Even amateur athletes have chosen this route over the past few years as they perceive it will make them perform better when they compete.

But how does diet impact a sports person’s performance?

With the help of a dietary food professional, athletes can learn to eat the proper foods and the proper amounts of foods to help them perform at the optimum level.

One of these professionals is a dietician.

According to the UK Association of UK Dieticians, dieticians:

“Are qualified and regulated health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat dietary and nutritional problems at an individual and wider public-health level. They use the most up-to-date public health and scientific research on food, health, and disease which they translate into practical guidance to enable people to make appropriate lifestyle and food choices.”

Another type of professional that helps athletes with their food intake is a nutritionist.

Medicine Net defines a nutritionist as one who works:

“In a hospital or nursing home, a person who plans and/ or formulates special meals for patients. It can also simply be a euphemism for a cook who works in a medical facility but who does not have extensive training in special nutritional needs.”

And can be:

“In clinical practice, a nutrition specialist.”

Essentially then, those that are either qualified dieticians or nutritionists who deal with athletes treat dietary and nutritional problems as a specialist in nutrition.

And some athletes need this help a lot.

Take NFL Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert. His day begins at 5 am and he drinks Gatorade and a protein bar or two. He then goes to training for an hour and has a few team meetings.

After that, he eats two slices of bacon, three eggs, and two slices of wheat toast.

Photo by Chris Moore on Unsplash

At lunchtime, he has a rice and chicken sandwich and a smoothie with strawberries, banana, mango, pineapple, Greek yogurt, and vanilla whey isolate protein po.

At dinner time he likes to eat Subway sandwiches with steak and cheese and chicken bacon ranch, on their Italian herbs and cheese bread.

He concentrated on a protein-heavy diet when he was training for the draft. Then he took a low-dairy, low carbohydrate diet. But once he got into a regular NFL season he started eating more carbohydrates which produce more energy in his body.

He also drinks 5–6 bottles of water daily.

If a dietary professional was to look at his diet, they would probably advise him to lower his red meat, sugar, or gluten intake as this can impact his health and performance.

Premier Lacrosse League co-founder Paul Rabil has a meal-based service called Fresh N’ Lean that supplements him during larger meals.

After suffering a back injury he decided to avoid surgery and instead change his diet. He became a vegan and ate lots more tofu and kale as a source of protein in his plant-based diet. He also ate nondairy bars and believes it’s a myth that professional athletes can’t perform to their highest ability and get enough protein in their diet.

And then there are regular things that regular people eat and drink.

Smoking is a non-runner for an athlete as it affects their lung capacity and slows them down over time. Drinking alcohol can be a fun adventure for all young adults and many teams gather together after games to have a drink together. But the reality is it changes peoples’ brains and delays healing in the athlete’s body.

Being a competitive athlete requires speed and consistency, so taking the improper things will not serve a player well.

And winning is a bigger challenge altogether.

Most people don’t win at sport and this can be as a result of them not eating well enough.

Even a year after the Covid-19 pandemic hit sales of potato crisps and chocolate had outgrown the sales of deodorant and razor blades. So it’s understandable that most people and even sports people let this slip when times are challenging.

But that means another team or player will win the competition instead.

Photo by Yüksel Göz on Unsplash

So, if you want to win as an athlete perhaps try to eat more boring and become more obsessive about what goes inside your body.

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Forbes, INC. & Entrepreneur Magazines, CBS, & NBC Featured, Dr. Conor Is The World’s Leading High-Performance Neuro Socio-Psychologist & Co-Authored 4 Books

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Dr. Conor Hogan Ph.D.

Dr. Conor Hogan Ph.D.

Forbes, INC. & Entrepreneur Magazines, CBS, & NBC Featured, Dr. Conor Is The World’s Leading High-Performance Neuro Socio-Psychologist & Co-Authored 4 Books

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