Regional Director, USA Sport Group.
Nowadays, nutrition is a hot topic in both sports and everyday life. It must be emphasized that the weight of an athlete is not an important factor in their performance. Instead of concentrating on reaching an ideal weight, it is wiser to emphasize on adopting healthy eating habits.
Athletes burn a lot of calories but fat should still be minimized in the athlete's diet, mainly because it is not an efficient provider of energy. Although there is a lot of energy stored in fat, in long duration sports, the body fuels itself mainly from glycogen (found in carbohydrates).
Complex carbohydrates fuel the body most efficiently in prolonged physical activities, such as soccer or tennis. As with other aerobic sports, the ideal meal for an endurance athlete should be rich in carbohydrates. Before games or important events, it is recommended to increase carb intake and decrease proteins. Flour and starch-based foods are a good source of complex carbs.
Examples: bread, potatoes, pasta, cereal, low-fat dairy products.
Proteins are essential for the regeneration of muscles and tissue. It is important to regularly integrate protein into meals, but the amount must be kept in small portions. No more than 10% of all calories in your diet should come from protein. As mentioned above, carbs are the primary source of energy for the body in endurance sports, whereas protein is used for cell replenishment. Pregame meals should not contain much protein.
Examples: meat, eggs, nuts.