3 Super Macronutrients For Athletes
Updated: Mar 8, 2022
Athletes are encouraged to eat meals and snacks that include the three important macronutrients. Learn more about each important macronutrient.
Your daily caloric requirements come from three macronutrients that include protein, carbohydrates and fats. Water is the only macronutrient that does not provide calories, but it is vital for life. Along with these nutrients, come micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. A balanced meal plan will incorporate these macronutrients over a twelve-hour period to provide satiety.
Athletes are encouraged to eat every 2-3 hours to sustain glucose levels. Meals and snacks consumed should include carbohydrates such as pasta, rice, bread, crackers, fruit, or juice.
The three important macronutrients for athletes are listed below:
Approximately 10-15% of an athlete’s calories should come from protein-rich foods. These include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, legumes, and beans. The energy provided by protein sustains additional mass for our muscles, brain, and skin tone. Contrary to many coaches or trainers, high-protein diets are not necessary for increasing muscle mass. The recommendation for increasing muscles is 1.2-2.0g per kilogram of body weight. Excess protein is harmful to the organs in the body. Conditions that can occur with excess protein intake are osteoporosis, gout, kidney stones, and heart irregularities.
The majority of our calories should come from wholesome carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the major fuel that converts glycogen for storage. Approximately 60-70% of our calories should be from vegetables, fruit, dairy, and grains. Food consumption studies in the United States have shown that the most consumed vegetables are French fries. When the athlete is in the midst of muscle exertion, glycogen is the major fuel for the event. After the event, glycogen is restored on a critical schedule. The most critical time period is the first 15 minutes after a sporting event. The glycogen uptake is at 300% capacity and declines every minute thereafter.
Fats are necessary for an athlete’s meal plan to reach caloric needs. Approximately 20-30% of total calories should come from fat. The two main categories of fats are essential and non-essential fatty acids (EFA and NEFA). The essential fatty acids are needed for the body to function properly and include Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. These fats are obtained through fish, nuts, seeds and plants. The non-essential fatty acids are not required on a daily basis and are founding grains, fruits, vegetables and meat. All fats have some saturated bonds, but the healthiest fats are unsaturated (e.g. monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils). Fats are used for sexual development, energy output and as a protection for our organs.
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