The athlete’s diet is dependent on the sport you play.
It takes steely determination to get to the top of a sporting field, but what else besides practice helps to make an athlete’s performance perfect? Compare the Market’s latest research explores the athlete’s diet, breaking down what professional athletes in 25 different sports eat to keep them at the top of their game.
Inline speed skating tops the list as the sport with the most carbohydrate (carb) intensive diet. Up to 70% of a typical diet consisting of the starchy substance, and a much more conservative intake of up to 15% protein and up to 35% fat.
This macronutrient breakdown should come as no surprise, considering inline speed skaters burn through their energy quickly throughout competitions. They rely on their oxidative energy and fat storage for energy during longer races.
The Breakdown: Nutritional Needs By Sport
To prepare for this, professionals of the sport will often eat a balanced meal, such as a pumpkin and chickpea salad, 2 to 3 hours before a game. This is to create optimal body function and energy production.
For those who are looking for a sport that is less carb heavy, sport or alpine climbing (commonly referred to as rock climbing) is considered the least carb-heavy diet out of those compared. A climbers’ diet is found to be around 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 25% fats.
This is to ensure that a climber’s body is in peak condition for prolonged anaerobic exercise—that is, breaking down glucose in the body for energy without the use of oxygen. Lean foods such as turkey sandwiches are optimal for climbers to fuel up before the start of a climb.
With more commonly televised sports, such as basketball, baseball, and football, the athlete’s diet sticks closer to an average daily intake of 45-65% carbs, 10-35% protein, and 20-35% fats. Many of the diet variations are dependent on the position a player is in.
To top up energy levels before a game, basketball, baseball, and football players, much like rock climbers, can be found eating a lean sandwich.
There are also some more extreme sports, such as wing-suit flying and free diving, where athletes keep their diet in line with the daily recommended intakes of macronutrients.
However, while the percentages dictating macros for wing-suit flying and free diving might be similar, strictness of what can and can’t be eaten ahead of the sport differ greatly.
Free divers will often stay away from mucous-forming foods such as sugar, dairy, processed meats, and bananas. This is because they may hinder a diver’s ability to equalize and restrict breathing during a dive.
Wing-suit flyers, on the other hand, have no specific limits of what can and can’t be eaten. But restraint on the quantity is often advised to avoid making the flyer feel lightheaded or uncomfortable during a flight.
According to Compare the Market’s research, soccer and mixed martial arts (MMA) have the strictest diets. With only a 5% leeway each across all macronutrients, it’s essential for these athletes to keep track of their diet in order to maintain themselves in top form.
As a result of this strict diet, many soccer players and MMA fighters look to low-GI carbs and lean proteins. That sustains their strengths for long periods of time.
Considering the Optimal Diet
Compare the Market’s General Manager for health insurance, Anthony Fleming, says it’s important that professional athletes work with the right people to ensure they are eating an appropriate diet that keeps them healthy during training.
“It’s important for aspiring athletes to consider the optimal diet for themselves and their sport to ensure long term gains in performance,” Fleming explains. “A person’s diet can significantly influence not only physical but also mental outcomes, which is why a well-balanced meal can make all the difference at the end of the day.”
To take a further look into the athlete’s diet of the professionals and how that breaks down for macronutrients, please visit the Compare the Market website.