Seven Common Nutritional Mistakes Made By Athletes


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An athletes diet, at times, can be less than perfect. In this post I want to talk about seven common nutritional mistakes made by athletes.shutterstock_235349668

1. Skipping breakfast
Missing out on breakfast tops the list of nutritional mistakes made by athletes. This often leaves you hungrier later in the day and can make losing those last 10 pounds a struggle. It also fails to provide energy for morning workout sessions. Athletes who have not eaten for 8-12 hours could face low blood sugar (glucose) levels which impairs performance.

For breakfast, something is better than nothing.  Athletes should consider consuming one small pre-workout snack and a real breakfast when the session is complete. This is especially true with workouts that are particularly intense or longer in duration.


2. Thinking that exercise means you can eat whatever you want
It is clear that exercise increases daily energy expenditure and metabolic rate can be elevated for a few minutes to several hours post-workout. Exercise does not allow an athlete to overeat high calorie or treat foods. This compromises recovery and impairs future training sessions. Athletes who are training heavily need to eat more healthy foods and nutrients to support their recovery, immunity, and the stress that exercise places on the body.

Too often, athletes use exercise as an excuse to justify poor eating patterns.


3. Not eating before a workout
Fueling prior to a workout is beneficial to top off muscle glycogen stores, allowing athletes to train harder, reduce fatigue, and not to feel hungry during a workout. The timing of the snack or meal will depend on your preference and the type of training session to be completed. Remember, more time is needed for high intensity sessions.

4. Waiting too long after exercise to eat
Athletes should consume some carbohydrate and protein 30-45 minutes after a workout to help refuel energy stores, and prepare your muscles for the next training session. This becomes even more essential if the next major meal is delayed.

After longer or more intense sessions some athletes lose their appetite making eating a challenge. Sports drinks and liquid meals such as milk based smoothies or soups are good options if you find yourself in this situation.


5. Replacing meals with energy bars and drinks

Energy bars should be considered “supplements” and are designed to refuel muscle with carbohydrate and provide protein for muscle repair. They are not meal replacements, rather a convenient snack to be consumed ‘in a pinch.” Energy bars are not necessary for people who are performing very light training or very limited activity. Eat real food instead.

6. Trusting the accuracy of dietary supplements labels and claims

Even though many supplement companies have improved product safety and accuracy of their market claims, “buyer beware” when consuming dietary supplements. This industry is largely unregulated, with companies being able to make claims with little or no research to support product effectiveness.

You are ultimately responsible for any supplement consumed and should always seek professional advice from a sports dietician (sports RD) when possible.

7. Jumping on the latest diet craze in search of the elusive ‘edge’

Athletes are understandably interested in using the latest scientific information to gain a performance advantage. However, there are no magic diets or formulas that will dramatically boost performance. Some eating practices may actually lead to a decrease in performance or have undesirable side effects.

The best advice is to follow sound and tested sports nutrition practices and seek professional guidance for individual fine tuning. Athletes should never try anything new or not tested in training during a competition or event.

Bottom Line

Strive for consistency over the long haul and realize we all make nutritional mistakes from time to time.  I bet there are plenty more mistakes you could add to this list. Leave a comment and tell me the biggest nutritional mistake you made last year.

Train hard and eat smart!

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Learn the exact steps I used to become a 9x Ironman finisher, ultramarathoner, and Boston Qualifier. Take the guesswork out of race-day nutrition.

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