follow us:
Shoulders of Giants is closed. Click here for more information
Wellness / October 16, 2016

How to eat like an athlete

Written by: Morris Brossette

So you’ve got a big event on the horizon. Maybe it’s a backcountry ski trip or an alpine climb. Or maybe you just want to smoke Uncle Richard in this year’s Turkey Trot.

Whatever it is, odds are you’ve put together some kind of workout regimen. And that’s good. But to get the results you want, you’ll need to supplement all that training with a solid diet plan.

The best diets are developed by sports nutritionists, who devote their entire careers to understanding the needs of the active body. But anyone can get started with just a few bits of knowledge.

Focus on quality

Steam or sautée a full serving of vegetables at least once a day.

Opt for grass-fed meats and eggs from pasture-roaming hens.

Formula One racers don’t fill their cars with cheap, dirty gas. Likewise, athletes shouldn’t fuel up with junk food. Put good, clean food into your body, and it will reward you with a strong, pain-free performance.

  • Include a full serving of vegetables with at least one meal each day. The nutrients in fresh, steamed, or lightly sautéed veggies will mitigate inflammation and speed recovery from training sessions.
  • Choose grass-fed meats and eggs from pasture roaming hens. Though all meats are high in protein, grain-fed meats are inflammatory and lack vital fat-soluble vitamins that boost immune function and assist in recovery.
  • Avoid processed/boxed carbohydrates, and steer clear of noodles, rice, and pasta. Instead, choose clean sources of carbs like roasted potatoes.


Take it day by day

Get the jump on your impulses by planning meals in advance.

If you have to eat out for a business or social occasion, check the menu for healthy options before you go.

Solid nutrition isn’t just important on race day—make sure you stick to your plan through the whole training process.. You’ll feel more sore, sleep worse, and need more time to recover after training sessions.

  • It’s easier to make good decisions in advance. Plan at least two of your daily meals the night before.
  • If you’re eating out, look up the menu online ahead of time to find healthy options. If nothing fits the bill, be sure to eat clean for the rest of the day.
  • Don’t wait! Remember that your performance will be dictated by your training, so fuel your body during training just like you would for the main event.


Time it right

Don't bother "carb loading" before your event, You'll only end up feeling bloated and heavy.

While training, consume small amounts of fuel every 35-40 minutes.

When you eat is almost as important as what you eat. Eating too close to the start of activity can give you unwanted GI distress, but not eating enough can result in a dreaded “bonk.”

  • If you’re training or racing early in the morning and need to fuel, be sure to do so at least 90 minutes prior to the start of your event. This will give your food time to digest.
  • Don’t eat too often during your training. Create a timing system of taking in fuel. I generally recommend consuming small amounts of fuel every 35-40 minutes. Caloric needs are specific to each individual, so get with a certified sports nutritionist to help you nail down your specific needs.
  • Don’t “carb load” the day before an event—doing so will cause bloating, poor sleep, and water weight gain. Instead, eat a normal breakfast with a cup of fruit or oatmeal.  Add a potato to your lunch, and eat an afternoon snack of fruit and nuts. For dinner, choose a clean protein, one serving of rice or potatoes, and something green.


Eat for your event

Fuel up on carbs about 45 minutes before high-intensity training with a banana or some berries.

Stick to a high-fat diet to avoid bonking on long runs, hikes, or bike rides.

Different sports make different demands on the body. Prepping for them requires different styles of training and different diets.

  • For longer, slower events like distance runs or long hikes, fuel up with a fat/carb combo. Fat burns slow, and can provide hours of energy. It also slows the absorption rate of carbs, which reduces the risk of bonking.
  • For short, high-intensity events, opt for a carb-only fuel. Simple carbs like gels or even raw honey mixed with sea salt will give your body quick, clean-burning energy.
  • Incorporate your event-day eating strategy into your training. Eat a cup of berries or a banana about 45 minutes prior to training for a high-intensity event, and choose a high-fat diet while training for any kind of event.

For more information on eating for performance or to get help finding your specific needs email coach Mo at [email protected].

about the author

Morris Brossette

Morris “Mo” Brossette grew up running, hiking, biking, and basically living everyday in the woods. Each day was a new adventure of building forts, exploring new areas, and even as a child, creating obstacle courses and other physical challenges to build strength and fitness.

read more
hit the outdoors

Sign up for the inside scoop on new products, member discounts and inspiration from our giants.