Why is Sports Nutrition Important?

Sports Nutrition

Good sports nutrition is extremely important to the success of an athlete. Competitive athletes use sports nutrition to achieve their goals of improving athletic performance, enhancing body composition, and bulking up lean muscle mass.

Discovering the right amount of calories, timing of nutrients, proper food type, supplements, and fluids is a very individual process and must be determined on a case by case basis. What works for one athlete may not work for another.  

The Basics of Sports Nutrition

The food we eat and fluids we drink provide the energy that we need for physical activity and life functions. Different types of macronutrients give the energy that the body needs. Balancing and optimizing an athlete’s diet is very important to their health and wellness.

These are the different types of macronutrients and the benefits they provide to the body. 


Carbohydrates are the main energy source for humans, and they are either complex or simple. Complex carbohydrates include potatoes, vegetables, whole grains, and oats. Simple carbohydrates include the sugars that naturally occur in vegetables, fruits, and milk.

Your digestive tract breaks down carbohydrates into glucose to feed energy into your organs, cells, and tissues. 


Proteins contain a chain of amino acids that are essential to the function of every cell in the human body. There are two types of proteins: complete and incomplete. Complete proteins have all of the amino acids that the body needs and come from poultry, meat, milk, and fish.

Incomplete protein sources are typically plant based proteins that generally don’t contain one or more of the essential amino acids.

Essential amino acids must be supplied by food, as they can’t be made by the body. For athletes, protein plays an essential role in muscle growth and recovery. 


While fats usually get a bad reputation, they serve a vital role in the human body. Fats are categorized into unsaturated or saturated. Saturated fats are found in animal products including high fat dairy and red meats. Unsaturated fats come from plant sources including nuts and olive oil.

Unsaturated fats are healthier for the body and aid in body development, work to protect organs, supply energy, and properly maintain cell membranes. 

Sports Nutrition Goals

Competitive athletes and active adults require a properly designed diet to support their bodies for training. A balanced nutrition plan for athletes should include enough calories, and the right balance of macronutrients to support their athletic performance goals.

Depending on exercise duration and intensity, the body will turn to fats or carbohydrates first for its energy source. If an athlete doesn’t consume enough calories, it can affect their training and performance. 

The amount of calories required for each athlete is highly individual, and athletes exercising three to four times a week can usually sustain their caloric needs through a normal healthy diet. Athletes who are intensely training five to six times a week will need to take in more calories to fulfill the higher energy demand. 

Balancing Calories and Macronutrients

Making sure an athlete is taking in the right amount of calories to equal their energy expenditure is extremely important, as is providing the right balance of macronutrients. As an example, a high school football player may require 3,000 calories a day, whereas extreme cyclists may need 12,000 calories a day. 

Proteins help with muscle recovery as well as muscle growth. Adequate amounts of protein aid in maintaining a positive nitrogen balance in the body, which the muscle tissue needs.

A general idea for the amount of protein ranges from 0.8 grams to 2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. Fats help the body with hormone regulation, balancing energy, and restoring muscle tissue.

The omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids are critical in a sports diet. It’s recommended that an athlete has 30% of their daily calories come from fat.

Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for athletes, and their daily intake should range from 45-65% of their total food consumption depending on individual physical demands. 

We Can Help With Sports Nutrition

If you’re concerned about the proper caloric needs and macronutrient balance for your body, we would love to help you. Dr. Leo at Today’s Integrative Health is very knowledgeable about sports nutrition and can help you develop a plan based on your specific needs. We are located at 6321 Executive Blvd, Rockville, MD 20852, in the Executive office park. Give us a call today to schedule your first appointment. Don’t guess about your diet any longer–let us help you perform at your best!

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Dr. L. J. Leo

Dr. Leo began his education at the Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine in Blacksburg, Virginia, where he earned his doctorate in osteopathy. He completed his internal medicine residency through the U.S. Army and had the honor of serving multiple overseas tours before retirement.

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