A unique sports diet is aimed at people who participate in high-intensity physical activities. For sportspeople, the consequences of a poor diet can be manifold:

  • reduced performance ;
  • lack of energy
  • poor recovery ;
  • risk of injury and hypoglycaemia ;
  • etc.


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Therefore, an athlete’s diet must cover the needs associated with high energy and provide all the nutrients the body needs to perform and recover. The essential points of a sports diet are:

  • Focus on carbohydrates;
  • Eat lean proteins;
  • Limit fats;
  • Stay well hydrated;
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Sports nutrition: what are the benefits?

The benefits of a sports diet are manifold:

  • Have enough energy;
  • Cover energy needs according to expenditure;
  • Increase performance and endurance;
  • Reduce recovery time;
  • Avoid dizziness and hypoglycaemia;
  • Reduce the risk of injury;
  • Increase coordination;
  • Avoid muscle wasting and anaemia.



Complex carbohydrates should be favoured as they provide the body with energy over the long term. They also cause blood sugar levels to vary much less. The complex carbohydrates to be favoured in the sports diet are :


  • Wholemeal pasta, brown rice, bulgur, wholemeal couscous;
  • Wholemeal bread;
  • Wholegrain cereals;
  • Pulses.


To obtain 15 g of carbohydrates, you will need to consume :

  • 1 slice of bread ;
  • 1/2 bagel ;
  • 1/3 cup cooked pasta or rice;
  • 1/2 cup cooked pulses;
  • 1 piece of fresh fruit;
  • 1/2 cereal bar;
  • 125 ml fruit juice.
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Dietetic products for sportsmen and women can play an essential role in a sportsman’s or woman’s diet, provided they are well chosen.


Foods that are sources of lean protein

Proteins should also be included in sportsmen’s and women’s meals, as they :

  • promote energy stability ;
  • help maintain muscle tissue and fibres.


However, many protein foods contain fats, which we want to avoid. You should, therefore, give preference to low-fat proteins in your sports diet, such as :

  • Poultry without the skin ;
  • Fish and seafood;
  • Lean meat ;
  • Eggs;
  • Low-fat cheese and dairy products;
  • Pulses ;
  • Tofu ;
  • Soya milk.


8g of protein are contained, on average, in :

  • 250 ml of milk ;
  • 1 yoghurt ;
  • 30g of cheese;
  • 30g of meat, poultry, fish or seafood;
  • 1 egg;
  • 1/2 cup of pulses.
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Foods rich in antioxidants

High-intensity sport increases oxidative stress and premature ageing of the body in the long term. As part of a sports diet, we recommend consuming sufficient antioxidant-rich foods:

Red berries ;

  • Goji berries and wild berries ;
  • Kiwi fruit, grapes, figs ;
  • Citrus fruits ;
  • Colourful vegetables (peppers, spinach, aubergine, celery, broccoli) ;
  • Artichoke ;
  • Garlic, onion ;
  • Parsley.


Dietary foods for sportsmen and women

Some sportspeople take carbohydrate gels or bars during long-duration exercise (e.g., mountain bike raids) to meet their carbohydrate requirements. This can be perfectly appropriate.

However, it’s essential to have tried them beforehand, as intense exercise can reduce your appetite for solid and very sweet foods. It would help if you also were sure to drink plenty of fluids when consuming these concentrated foods.

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Feel free to ask a dietician for advice on choosing the right specialist foods for your sports diet.

Recovery drinks are also helpful for severe athletes to replenish muscle glycogen reserves and repair tissues. Long, high-intensity training depletes glycogen reserves.

It is essential to replenish them quickly within 30 minutes of stopping activity. The muscles will then have what they need to replenish their energy reserves. A recovery drink is unnecessary for people who engage in moderate physical activity. It would cancel out the calorie loss caused by exercise.


An excellent full meal at a good time is more appropriate.


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Hydration for sportsmen and women

It would help if you didn’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink because exercise alters the thirst mechanism. The thirst reflex is often triggered when we are already 1% or 2% dehydrated. By this stage, our performance has already dropped by 10%.

To find out how much water you need to take before and during exercise, you first need to assess your expenditure during the activity in question.


Here’s how to do it:

  • Weigh yourself before and after exercise (for example, before 69 kg, after 67 kilograms);
  • Record the amount of water drunk during exercise (e.g. 1 litre);
  • The weight lost during exercise corresponds to the amount of water lost.
  • (69 kg – 67 kg = 2 kg = a loss of 2 litres of water);
  • The amount of water to drink corresponds to the amount of water drunk + the amount equivalent to the loss (1 litre + 2 litres = 3 litres);
  • Divide the amount of water needed by 15 minutes of training, e.g., duration 3 h (12 x 15 minutes), so 3 l / 12 = 250 ml.
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You’ll need to drink 250 ml of water every 15 minutes over the 3 hours of training.


Beware of overhydration

Drinking too much can be just as damaging to your health as not drinking enough. In fact, overhydration, i.e. more than 9.5 litres of water a day, can lead to hyponatremia (a blood sodium level that is too low), which can lead to cerebral oedema, even coma and death.

Overhydration mainly affects marathon runners, triathletes and those participating in long cycling and swimming events. To avoid overhydration, consult the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Sports Nutrition.


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