Sports Nutrition :101 Overview Guide

Sports Nutrition :101 Overview Guide

It is found in many nutrition journals and  in many researches that a diet helps in maintaining healthy body composition and improves sports performance and muscle recovery

A well-planned balanced diet will help you in every aspect of your sports performance, whether you are training only for your physical fitness or for competition nutrition is everything to achieve your goals in sports.

Every individual has their own nutritional needs according to their body. A common diet is not going to work perfectly for everyone.

 Some individuals will need more carbs, fats and protein for physical improvements whereas other individuals’ demand can be higher in the need of more vitamins and minerals than fats,carbs and protein.

In this article we will discuss, what should be a nutrient content of a healthy sports diet generally. 


It is very much important for an individual to consume sufficient amounts of calories who take part in any physical activities to meet their physical requirements. 

Unable to fulfill the calories requirement of a body will result in muscle loss, slow recovery rate, illness, increase fatigue level, reduction in performance level, and malfunction of many hormonal activities. 

Many research has found when you are trying to gain muscle you must take in more calories than you burn and when you lose fat consume fewer calories than you burn.

Sports Nutrition :101 Overview Guide

It is always advised to intake 40 to 45 kcal/kg of fat-free mass per day for maintaining a good energy balance and a healthy body. The minimum limit of consuming calories should be 30 kcal/kg of fat-free mass (Fat-free mass includes muscle, body organs, fluids, and bone). 

It may sometimes happen that intake of low calories and burning more result in Relative energy deficiency which causes improper functioning of physiological organs, affecting the metabolic rate and cardiovascular health, slows down protein synthesis and in women, it can affect the menstrual cycle and bone health.

However, your daily calories need will depend upon your genetic factor, body weight, age, body composition, sex, and your daily physical activities. 

There are three ways by which you can estimate your daily calories needs:-

Step 1 – Estimate your Resting Metabolic Rate

 Resting metabolic rate is defined as the amount of calories you burn while resting and doing nothing for 24 hours.

The energy you burn without any activities is the amount of energy your body requires daily for maintaining your body’s normal function such as metabolic rate, breathing, brain function, and heartbeat. 

You can use the mifflin-st jeor equation to estimate the value of your RMR and is more accurate than the most commonly used harris benedict equation. 

For Men –

(10 x weight (kg) ) + ( 6.25 x height (cm) ) – (5 x age ( years) ) + 5 

For women –

( 10 x weight (kg) ) + ( 6.25 x height ( cm) ) – ( 5 x age ( years) ) – 161

Step 2 – Workout your Physical Activity Level 

It is the ratio of your overall daily energy expenditure to your RMR. Below given are some of the rough estimation of PAL ( Physical activity level)

Mostly inactive ( mostly sitting) – 1.2

Fairly active ( walking and workout 1-2 x week ) – 1.3

Moderately active ( working out 2-3 x weekly ) – 1.4

Active ( working out more than  3  x week ) – 1.5

Extremely Active ( workout daily ) – 1.7

Sports Nutrition :101 Overview Guide

Step 3 –  Multiply your RMR to PAL 

Daily calories needs  = RMR X PAL

The final value after multiplication is the rough estimate you will get for your daily calorie consumption. Intake of calories above this value will result in weight gain and vice-versa.


Carbohydrate is the primary fuel for our brain, central nervous system, and our body. Fat is also considered fuel for our body but carbs are given more priority as it provides more  ATP ( Adenosine triphosphate ) and is considered an effective fuel.

Carbohydrate is stored in our body as a glycogen mainly ibn muscle and liver. About 100 gms of glycogen is stored in the fatty cells of the liver for maintaining blood sugar level and about 400 gms of glycogen is stored in muscle for providing energy during physical activities.

When there is a drop in blood sugar level the glycogen stored in the liver breaks down to release glucose into the bloodstream. 

All the high-intensity training or prolonged training sessions is based on the strategy of total carbohydrate availability in our body. 

When you are training hard with high intensity for a long period of time your daily carbs intake should be taken in a way that provides enough fuel for workout and glycogen replenishment. 

Generally, the function of carbohydrates in our body is to provide glycogen and refuel the body and the carbohydrate intake is dependent upon body weight and workout intensity. 


Below provided is generally recommended value for daily  carbohydrate intake :-

Physical Activity LevelDaily Carbs Intake 
Very low intensity training 4 to 5 gm/ kg of body weight
Moderate training intensity5 to 7 gm/kg of body weight
High intensity training 7 to 10 gm/kg of body weight
Very high training intensity 8 to 12 gm/kg of body weight

For example, if your body weight is 65 kg and you are involved in low-intensity training then your carbohydrate intake will be 260 gm to 325 gm.

When you are planning for a rapid recovery rate after a workout then it is always recommended to consume 1 to 1.5 gm of carbohydrates per kg of your body weight in  your post-workout meal per hour for the first 4 hours.

But if you are going to train again within about 8 to 9 hours you must include high glycemic index carbohydrate foods in your meal because it will replenish muscle glycogen store faster and promote rapid recovery.

If your recovery period is about 24 hours or more then carbohydrate need for recovery is not much critical. You can add protein to your carbohydrate food in a post-workout meal so that it will maintain a healthy recovery rate and enhance glycogen storage.

It is also recommended to consume 1 to 4 gm of carbohydrate in pre-workout meal before 1 to 4 hours of workout session

Below given is the recommendation for carbohydrate loading at pre/mid/post workout

Carbs Loading strategyTimingCarbs amount 
Pre- workout carbs loadBefore 1 hrs of workout1 to 4 gm/kg of body weight
Post-workout carbs loadBetween two workout session 1 to 1.5 gm/kg of body weight per hour for first 4 hours
Carbohydrate  loading Workout period more than 75 mins10 to 12 gm/kg of body weight 

If your workout session is 45 minutes or less you will be unable to find any  differentiation in physical performance.

But if your workout session is continued for  75 minutes you can use carbohydrate drinks so that it will stimulate your central nervous system which will lower your fatigue level, improve workout intensity and performance.

Sports Nutrition :101 Overview Guide

If your workout is continued for more than 1 hour but less than 3 hours you can consume 30 to 60 gm of carbohydrate according to your need. Carbohydrate needs during a workout are basically based on workout time and workout intensity not on your body size or weight.

This will maintain a perfect ratio of muscle glycogen storage and blood sugar level. These carbohydrates will give a boost to your endurance, intensity and lower the muscle fatigue level. 

Earlier it was believed that our body can absorb a maximum of 60 gm of carbohydrate, once at a  time but recent sport studies have found that a maximum of 90 gm of carbohydrates can be absorbed by our body.

 So if your workout intensity is very high and performed longer than 3 hours then it is recommended to consume 90 gm in the workout session.

Always choose high glycemic index carbs such as energy bars, bananas, energy drinks which will increase the absorption rate.


Protein is the chain of 20 important amino acids out of which 9 amino acids are essential which are the building blocks of new muscle cells and help in body’s cell repair. Protein also helps in production of many important hormones, enzymes and antibodies. 

Individuals who work out daily have greater requirements for protein than who are inactive individuals. Protein is needed for increasing the recovery rate of breakdown muscle during a workout. So it is important for you to consume Protein-rich foods.

It is always recommended to consume 1.2 gm to 2 gm of protein per kg of body weight and for the people who are mostly inactive, the recommended amount is 0.75 gm per kg of body weight. So there will be protein deficiency in your body.

The amount of protein needed by an individual is dependent upon the physical activities and is adjustable according to the needs and training regime. 

Sports Nutrition :101 Overview Guide

The timing of protein intake is very much crucial when it comes to losing fat and promoting muscle growth. It is always recommended to spread your total daily protein requirement throughout the day rather than consuming it all at once.

Studies on sports nutrition always recommend intake 15 to 25 gm of protein each meal throughout the day.

Nutrition experts also recommend taking protein with complex carbohydrates right after your workout as it promotes better recovery. Always add high-quality protein that absorbs fast in your post-workout meal. 

Taking whey protein and BCAAs in your post-workout meal will enhance your Muscle protein synthesis as it contains leucine which mainly triggers protein synthesis.

Many individuals think consuming an extra amount of protein than required can get them increased strength and muscle mass faster. 

But this is not true, the function of protein is to increase the protein synthesis process for muscle recovery and build up new cells and tissues. Getting extra protein is not bad but it is broken down into energy and urea which is used as fuel or stored as fats or excreted through urine.


Fat is also an essential part of nutrients as it plays many important roles in our body such as supporting cell membrane, brain function, protecting internal organs, and nerve sheaths.

Consuming foods that contain fats provides you with essential fatty acids and Vitamin A, D, and E like fat-soluble vitamins that play an important role in providing energy during the workout.

However, there is no specific recommendation for fat intake. Individuals must focus on their daily intake of carbohydrates and Proteins and consume fats for overall calories makeup. 

It is always recommended for an athlete to consume calories from fat less than 35 % but it all depends upon individual personal needs and goal. 

You must consume energy from a fat minimum of  20% otherwise you will have a deficiency of good fats and many fat-soluble vitamins. 

Always remember that you must intake saturated fatty less than 10 % and get more unsaturated fatty acids that are good for health that includes Omega 3,6 and 9 which improve overall health, reduce free radicals, and speed up the recovery process. 


Hydration is a very important factor for maintaining optimal health.  Make sure you properly get hydrated before starting your workout session. You must consume at least 5 to 10 ml of water per kg of body weight before 2 to 4 hours of starting your workout in order to minimize dehydration. 

Dehydration during your workout can result in loss of endurance, performance, and body heat-related problems. Always maintain a healthy ratio of fluid intake to fluid loss. 

Always weigh yourself before and after the workout to measure the water loss through sweat and urine during the workout. It is ok to lose 2 to 3 % of body weight through dehydration. A loss of 1 kg of your body weight is equal to 1 liter of sweat lost. If your workout is very much intense and the session lasts for more than one hour then you must hydrate yourself during the workout.

Sports Nutrition :101 Overview Guide

Keep in mind over-hydrating yourself by drinking too much water than required can be dangerous and can be fatal in some cases though it is a very rare case. 

Drinking too much water can result in dilution of sodium levels in the blood. It is advised to consume that much fluid up to which you maintain normal body weight neither increasing it.

Many sports drinks contain sodium in them and it is an advantage for you because when your training session lasts more than 2 hours and you sweat the chance of dehydration and hyponatremia minimize because the presence of sodium will increase water retention.

After your workout session, the loss of water and sodium can be recovered by normal drinking of water and consuming foods. But if you need faster recovery you will need a rehydration drink or need to consume 25 % of more water with salty foods.

Vitamins and Minerals 

When an individual is involved in an intense workout they need several vitamins and minerals for proper body function, maintaining metabolic rate and energy supply. 

You don’t need supplementation for vitamins and minerals because as long as you are getting a proper balanced diet and consuming sufficient calories you are fulfilling the body’s requirement for vitamins and minerals. 

Vitamins and Minerals supplementation can be considered for athletes if their diet and calorie intake are very restricted or you can also consider supplements when your food choice is very limited.  e.g – you are traveling.

You must pay close attention to Calcium, vitamin D and iron as their deficiency is very common. If you are lacking in calcium and iron you can use supplements and for Vitamin D you can either have little exposure to sure or consider supplements.

Sports Nutrition :101 Overview Guide

Carbohydrate loading Strategy 

If you are taking part in any sports competition, or if you are taking part in an endurance sports event then carbohydrate loading will definitely help you in getting your maximum performance result.

Start your carbs loading 48 hours before the event to get the best result. Consume 10 to 12 grams of carbohydrate per kg of body weight every 24 hours and you need to consume 3 to 5 grams of carbohydrate per kg of body weight before 1 to 4 hours of your event. 

Remember the food you choose to consume must be high in carbohydrates, moderate in protein and it should be very low in fat and fibers as they can increase gastrointestinal problems. 

Body Composition 

Body composition is one of the things in fitness that really matter in physical activities and performance. There is no hard and fast rule of body composition for any sports because every individual has their optimal fat level at which their physical performance improves without affecting their health conditions.

Body weight and body composition should be parallelly equal to each other, accepting fluctuation throughout the year.

However, the practice of excessive weight gain and weight loss in a few months should be avoided for avoiding health issues.  Practice a gradual weight loss strategy for better performance. 

If you consume an energy deficit of 250 to  500 kcal and intake protein from 1.8 to 2.7 gm per kg of body weight every day you will notice slow weight loss results in a week or two. 

Sports Nutrition :101 Overview Guide

Planning of your Training Diet

Planning a healthy balanced diet will provide you with enough protein, carbohydrate, fats, vitamins, and Minerals. Nutrition In your diet should come from a wide variety of foodstuff. 

The below image will give you the illustration of the portion of different foods needed to have a healthy balanced diet.

Sports Nutrition :101 Overview Guide

Fruits and Vegetables

Include 5 to 9 portion a day because they are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals which are helpful for immunity, health, and physical performance

Carbohydrate Foods

Include 4 to 6 portions a day that includes cereals, rice, oats, and beans, etc to maintain high glycogen levels in your body needed to fuel your intense training session.

Calcium Rich foods

Include 2 to 4 portions a day including nuts, pulses, and dairy products. This is the easiest way to get calcium which is good for strong bones.

Protein rich Foods

Include 4 portions a day including meat, eggs , fish, poultry, soya etc. for better growth and performance.

Healthy fats 

Include 2 to 3 portions a day. Get it by consuming olive oils, flax seeds, fatty fish, nuts. They will improve endurance, recovery rate and reduce inflammation.

However this does not take into account the specific nutrition requirement of an athlete, but you can use this as a baseline for your daily training.

The main difference between a training diet and a normal diet is that active people are going to need more energy and nutrients than inactive people ( sedentary people).

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Surajit Jana.

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