The Consumer Education Project of Milk SA

Get Started with the Basics

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Get started with the basics

Athletes’ diets can make a difference to the success of their training programmes. The food an athlete eats fulfils different functions in the body. This information sheet shows how food choices can enhance an athlete’s training and strength.

The major components of food are the macro nutrients protein, carbohydrates and fat. For the athlete, protein and carbohydrates are the most important.


CARBOHYDRATES: The main source of energy

how much fat, protein and carbohydrates, food sources, carbohydrates portions, protein portions, balanced meal


Why should an athlete eat carbohydrates?

• Carbohydrates are a key energy source.

Where can an athlete find carbohydrates?

• The foods in the table below are good sources of carbohydrates. Portion sizes that equal 50 g of carbohydrates are included to help with meal planning.

How much carbohydrates does an athlete need?

• Divide your weight (in kilograms) by 10. This number represents the number of carbohydrate portions you should eat daily. A portion is taken, as the portion sizes indicated below, to provide 50 g of carbohydrates.

When should an athlete eat carbohydrates?

• Include a carbohydrate food source with every meal. Try to eat five to six meals per day.

• Eat one portion of carbohydrates as soon as possible after a training session that lasted longer than an hour. Pack this food as part of your training kit.

• If you train 90 minutes or longer, include an energy drink during your training.




Food Sources


Protein foods and portion sizesWhy should an athlete eat protein?

• Protein is needed to build and repair muscles.

Where can an athlete find protein?

• Protein is found in both plant and animal sources.

How much protein does an athlete need for sports training?

• Divide your weight (in kilograms) by 10. This is the number of protein portions you need per day.

When should an athlete eat protein?

• Eat a portion of protein after each training session. Pack a protein-rich food as part of your training kit.

Distribute the rest of your protein portions throughout the day.

An example of a balanced meal plan for an athlete of 70 kg is as follows:

Balanced meal plan

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