Optimal Nutrition for Athletes

The recent narrative review on athletes’ nutritional demands provides an in-depth exploration of the various nutritional strategies that can significantly impact an athlete’s performance, recovery, and overall wellbeing. Authored by Adam Amawi and colleagues, the study was published in Frontiers in Nutrition and highlights the crucial role nutrition plays in an athlete’s life, influencing performance levels, recovery speed, and injury prevention.

The Results

The study extensively discusses the key components of an athlete’s diet, emphasising the importance of macronutrients—carbohydrates, proteins, and fats—as well as micronutrients and hydration strategies. The authors advocate for a diet that not only supports peak athletic performance but also promotes efficient recovery and reduces injury risk. They delve into the specific needs for different types of athletes, suggesting that endurance athletes, for example, require a different balance compared to strength-focused athletes.

The Conclusions

The review concludes that to achieve optimal performance and recovery, athletes need to carefully manage their nutritional intake, ensuring they consume the right balance of nutrients at appropriate times. It underscores the importance of individualising dietary plans based on the athlete’s specific needs, training regime, and personal goals, emphasising that there is no one-size-fits-all approach in sports nutrition.

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Practical Applications

Personal trainers working with athletes can apply insights from this study by:

  • Educating Athletes on Macronutrient Balancing: Ensuring that athletes understand the importance of consuming an adequate balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats tailored to their training demands.
  • Implementing Timing Strategies: Advising athletes on the timing of nutrient intake to enhance performance and recovery. For example, consuming protein and carbohydrates shortly after training sessions to aid in muscle recovery.
  • Micronutrient Awareness: Encouraging athletes to include micronutrient-rich foods in their diet or consider supplements when necessary, especially for vitamins and minerals that are pivotal in performance and recovery.
  • Hydration Plans: Emphasising the importance of proper hydration before, during, and after exercise to maintain optimal performance and facilitate recovery.


  • Pre-Workout Nutrition: Suggest a meal rich in complex carbohydrates and lean protein about 2-3 hours before intense training to fuel the workout.
  • Post-Workout Recovery: Recommend a blend of high-glycaemic carbohydrates and a protein shake immediately after training to quickly replenish glycogen stores and aid muscle repair.
  • Daily Hydration: Guide athletes to monitor their hydration by checking the colour of their urine and adjusting their fluid intake accordingly.

Pre-Workout Meal Example

  1. Whole Grain Toast with Banana and Almond Butter
  2. Whole Grain Toast: Provides a source of complex carbohydrates for sustained energy release.
  3. Banana: Offers quick-acting carbohydrates for an immediate energy boost and is rich in potassium, which helps in muscle function and prevents cramps.
  4. Almond Butter: Adds a healthy dose of fats and protein to aid in sustained energy and support muscle health.
  5. Greek Yogurt with a Handful of Berries
  6. Greek Yogurt: High in protein, which can help prevent muscle breakdown during intense workouts.
  7. Berries (blueberries, strawberries, etc.): Packed with antioxidants that can help reduce oxidative stress during exercise, and also provide additional carbs for energy.
  8. Hydration
  9. Water or an Electrolyte Drink: Proper hydration is crucial. Drinking water or an electrolyte-enhanced beverage can help maintain fluid balance and prevent dehydration.

Why This Meal Works

  • Balanced Macronutrients: This meal provides a balanced mix of carbohydrates, protein, and fats. The carbohydrates are primarily sourced from whole grains and fruits, offering both quick and sustained energy. Protein from Greek yogurt supports muscle repair and growth, while the fats from almond butter provide a slow-releasing energy source that keeps you powered throughout the workout.
  • Timing: Consuming this meal 2-3 hours before training allows enough time for digestion and absorption, minimising any gastrointestinal discomfort during the workout and ensuring that the nutrients are available for muscle utilisation.
  • Flexibility: This meal can be easily adjusted based on individual dietary needs, preferences, and specific training demands. For those with higher energy needs, portions can be increased, or additional carb sources like a drizzle of honey on the toast can be added.

This pre-workout meal not only prepares the body with the necessary fuel but also helps in achieving peak performance and optimising training outcomes.

Post-Workout Meal Example

For optimal post-workout recovery, the goal is to replenish glycogen stores, promote muscle repair, and reduce inflammation. Here’s an example of a meal that can be consumed within 30 minutes to an hour after a workout to achieve these goals effectively:

  1. Grilled Chicken Breast with Quinoa and Steamed Vegetables
  2. Grilled Chicken Breast: Provides high-quality protein that aids in muscle repair and recovery.
  3. Quinoa: A great source of carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores and also contains protein, making it an excellent food for recovery.
  4. Steamed Vegetables (broccoli, carrots, and spinach): Rich in vitamins and minerals that support immune function and reduce inflammation.
  5. Chocolate Milk
  6. Chocolate Milk: Contains a good balance of carbs and protein, which is ideal for recovery. The carbohydrates help replenish the muscle glycogen quickly, while the protein helps repair muscle damage.
  7. Fresh Fruit (such as pineapple or berries)
  8. Pineapple: Contains bromelain, an enzyme that can help reduce muscle inflammation and improve recovery.
  9. Berries: High in antioxidants, which help to reduce oxidative stress caused by intense workouts.

Why This Meal Works

  • Nutrient-Dense: This meal is packed with nutrients that are crucial for recovery. The combination of protein from the chicken, carbs from quinoa and chocolate milk, and antioxidants from vegetables and fruits helps to cover all bases in aiding recovery.
  • Rapid Absorption: Eating within the first hour after exercise takes advantage of the body’s enhanced ability to absorb and utilise nutrients post-exercise. This timing helps maximise the recovery benefits.
  • Hydration: Chocolate milk also contributes to rehydration, providing fluids and electrolytes lost through sweat during exercise.

Additional Tips

  • Variety: You can substitute chicken with other lean proteins like turkey, fish, or tofu depending on dietary preferences.
  • Spices and Herbs: Incorporate anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric or ginger in the meal preparation to enhance the anti-inflammatory benefits.
  • Portion Control: Adjust the portion sizes based on the intensity and duration of the workout to match energy expenditure.

This post-workout meal is designed to speed up recovery, reduce muscle soreness, and prepare the body for the next training session, making it an essential component of any athlete’s nutrition plan.

This detailed understanding of nutritional strategies not only helps trainers optimise the training outcomes for their athletes but also equips them with the knowledge to prevent injuries and enhance long-term athletic development.


Amawi, A., AlKasasbeh, W., Jaradat, M., Almasri, A., Alobaidi, S., Hammad, A. A., Bishtawi, T., Fataftah, B., Turk, N., Saoud, H. A., Jarrar, A., & Ghazzawi, H. (2024). Athletes’ nutritional demands: a narrative review of nutritional requirements. Frontiers in Nutrition, 10:1331854. Click here to review the full research article

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