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Nutrition for athletes and active people

Athletes and active people need to eat a healthy diet in order to reap the benefits of their active lifestyle.

Stingers goalie Katherine Purchase leaning on hockey net

The American Dietetic Association, the Dietitians of Canada and the American College of Sports Medicine have collaborated to develop a position paper on nutrition and athletic performance. The paper provides energy, nutrient and fluid recommendations for active adults and competitive athletes.

Athletes and active people need to eat a healthy diet in order to reap the benefits of their active lifestyle. Poor nutrition can lead to muscle and bone loss, changes in menstruation, fatigue, illness, injury and a longer recovery time. The general nutrition strategies for athletes and active people are listed below. For more detailed information consult the position paper linked above.

  • Consume enough energy during periods of high-intensity and/or long duration training. Low energy intake can lead to loss of muscle, menstrual problems, hormone disturbances, fatigue, injury and other problems.
  • Carbohydrates provide an important fuel source for the brain and muscles during exercise. General recommendations for carbohydrate intake range from 3 to 10 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. The amount depends on the intensity of training or competition, energy needs and other factors.
  • Recommendations for protein consumption typically range from 1.2 to 2.0 grams per kilogram of body weight per day.  Protein needs can generally be achieved through diet alone. Protein or amino acid supplements are not necessary.
  • Fat is an important nutrient in the diet of athletes and active people. Fat intake should range from 20 to 35% of total energy intake. A low-fat diet does not benefit performance and a high-fat/low carbohydrate diet is not recommended.
  • Meet the recommended daily amount of micronutrients (i.e., vitamins and minerals). Restricting energy intake, using severe weight-loss practices or eliminating one or more food groups from the diet increases the risk of becoming deficient in micronutrients.
  • Dehydration and low hydration decrease athletic performance. Appropriate fluid intake before, during and after exercise is important for health and optimal performance.
  • No vitamin and mineral supplements are generally required if a person is consuming adequate energy from a variety of foods.
  • Nutritional requirements vary for each person. Consult with a dietician who specializes in sports nutrition to develop a plan to meet your nutritional needs.

Additional resources

Sheila Kealey's website provides evidence-based information and has links to several reliable sports nutrition resources. Topics on her site include:





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