Nutrition for Athletes


Emma Sims

A large part of improving one’s fitness stems from what a person uses to fuel their body. For student athletes, it’s often difficult to know exactly what to eat before and after a challenging workout. What many don’t realize is that the foods that are necessary to prepare and recover from a workout don’t have to be pricey or processed bars or gels but can be foods that are already in one’s pantry.

4 hours before:

Pre-workout foods are fundamental in influencing how an athlete performs.“The best foods to eat pre-work should be low fat, low fiber, and moderate in carbohydrates and protein,” says Registered Dietitian Erin Martineau. “Stick with similar meals/snacks before each workout, especially before a competition, so that you know your body will be able to tolerate it.” Martineau recommends foods such as bananas, apples, nut butter, and trail mix.

30 minutes-1 hour before:

When looking for electrolytes, look no further than the fruit bowl. While many will try to throw down a sports drink or a few gels, more efficient electrolytes can often be found in simple fruits and vegetables. According to Martineau, an apple or orange is a better choice with more than double the potassium contained in a typical sports drink, and potassium is an essential electrolyte lost in vigorous activity. “Vegetable juice is a good source of vitamins, minerals, particularly sodium lost in sweat, and fluid,” Martineau adds.


The first thing many athletes will do post-workout is gorge on all the food around them, regardless of what it is, or reach for a protein bar or shake. While protein is necessary to rebuild muscle, there are many alternatives to protein supplements that one can eat to allow for full recovery. “Consuming complete protein foods will provide the body will all the ingredients for muscle building.” While protein bars are good, Martineau states that animal derived proteins such as meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy are the most efficient sources for rebuilding muscle.

Overall, the diet of elite athletes should simply be a healthy one. Martineau emphasizes that it is important to eat “lots of fruits and vegetables, with a side of complex carbs and protein.” Below is a simple recipe any student athlete can make as a quick, healthy snack, or meal.


Overnight Oats:

This oatmeal is a simple meal that anyone can throw together and will stay fresh for up to one week. The complex carbohydrate of old fashioned oats is ideal for long term energy, while peanut butter provides 7 grams of protein. This is a great breakfast to have the morning before any athletic event. 


  • ½ cup milk (almond, soy, or regular)
  • 1 tablespoon of chia seeds
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter (other nut butters can be substituted)
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • ½ cup of oats
  • 1 sliced banana (optional)

Pour milk, peanut butter, chia seeds, and honey into a small bowl

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Whisk together until thoroughly combined, then add oats

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Cover and place in fridge overnight, then enjoy in the morning!

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