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The perfect sports diet

by Tom

This article aims to make a modest contribution to the optimal design of a nutritional programme for sportsmen and women. It includes remarks and observations on sports nutrition.

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What is a sports diet?

In principle, sports nutrition is nothing more than a healthy, balanced diet tailored to the specific needs of sportsmen and women. The essential aspects of sports nutrition are:

  • The volume of training expressed in hours.
  • The frequency of sessions.
  • The time of day they take place and the training objectives.

A personalised nutritional programme can be devised based on this. The sport, the athlete’s parameters, and the environment must also be considered. As a result, there is no such thing as a perfect sports diet for everyone.

What is the purpose of nutrition for sportsmen and women?

The number one condition for making progress in training is to train sufficiently and wisely. Sleep and diet play an essential role in recovery. Food provides vital energy intake after training (energy balance). If the athlete makes a mistake in his dietary choices, his body will not be able to recover optimally. This means you need to document your training sessions, their intensity and the time of day they occur.

To sum up, a distinction can be made between nutrition before, during and after exercise.

Comments and observations on the design of a nutritional programme

The remarks and observations below are a brief summary.

Observations: nutrition before exercise (preparation for very intense exercise)

  • 3 to 5 hours before the last main meal (average in terms of quantity and easy to digest)
  • 2 to 3 hours before a light meal or easily digestible snacks
  • 1 to 2 hours before light snacks, such as bread rolls/sandwiches, energy bars, bananas, etc., can be eaten 1 to 3 hours before exercise or as a supplement.

Choice of food before exercise:

The food to be eaten before intense exercise is designed to improve digestibility: it should, therefore, be mainly carbohydrate-rich foods (bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, maise). On the other hand, these meals and snacks should be low in fat and protein. Tolerable only in small quantities: all high-fat foods, meat, fish, eggs, vegetables and fruit (except ripe bananas).

Observations: nutrition during exercise (performance support)

The two main types of intake are fluids (replace a fluid deficit, quench thirst, optimise performance) and carbohydrates (carbohydrate energy intake, optimise performance). This is done by regularly ingesting small quantities (e.g. in the form of energy drinks (homemade or sold in shops), gels (always to be taken with liquids), energy bars, etc.).

Observations: nutrition after exercise (recovery)

Three aspects play an essential role in recovery:

  • Fluid deficits must be compensated for. The basic principle is that the amount of fluid required should cover around 120 to 150% of the fluid deficit. When this deficit is still limited, you can drink according to your thirst. It is important to start drinking actively and consciously soon after the end of the effort.
  • Carbohydrate intake: energy reserves must be replenished. It is, therefore, essential to define the energy and carbohydrate requirements necessary for daily training to ensure good recovery if these requirements are high and, conversely, to avoid overeating if they are low.
  • Proteins fulfil two important functions: They support the development of muscle mass and help you recover more quickly.

Nutrition for sportsmen

Here is exciting information to plan the best lunches and dinners:


This is the last meal before training. It has to be balanced, and the instructions are the same when it’s a competition.

  • a high source of carbohydrates (pasta, rice, quinoa, etc.) ;
  • but with little fibre (raw fresh vegetables, pulses, wholemeal bread, etc.);
  • proteins (meat, fish, eggs) rich in essential amino acids;
  • very little fat;
  • vitamins and minerals.

Lunch: this should be sufficiently energy-boosting to avoid ‘energy crashes’ and keep you going until your evening training session. It should be balanced, as indicated above, so fast food, pizzas, and other express sandwiches should be avoided. Fats should be limited. Cooked vegetables are preferable to raw vegetables (softening of the fibres) to reduce digestion time and avoid being disturbed during the effort.

  • starter of cooked green vegetables ;
  • Protein dish: meat or fish or egg;
  • starchy foods (pasta, rice, semolina, wheat, etc.); avoiding pulses (which cause more or less digestive problems);
  • a dairy product: cheese is allowed from time to time at lunchtime, but I still recommend the ones listed for breakfast;
  • a fruit-based dessert (vitamin intake);
  • a variety of breads: white, cereal, wholemeal, etc;
  • fat is kept to a minimum and preferably used raw.


The body has made a significant physical effort, so dinner should be light and easily digestible, with limited fat and smaller quantities. This meal allows optimum recovery of glycogen stocks (in part) and, therefore, prepares you for the next day.

  • starter of raw vegetables (small portion);
  • Protein dish: meat, fish or egg;
  • half a portion of starchy foods and half a portion of cooked green vegetables;
  • a low-fat dairy product: milk (or vegetable) or yoghurt, fromage frais, fruit yoghurt, preferably with 0% fat;
  • a fruit-based dessert (vitamin boost);
  • a variety of types of bread: white, cereal, wholemeal, etc.

A sportsman’s diet suited to exercise, particularly running, is synonymous with performance.

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