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Eat well. Perform better.

By Corley McBeth, DPT

If you want to perform well, you have to eat well. Optimal nutrition can enhance physical activity, athletic performance, and recovery from exercise. Each individual has different dietary needs; therefore, it is important to identify the appropriate quantity, quality, and timing of food and fluids to most effectively support what your body needs to thrive.

Are you eating enough protein?

Protein is necessary to allow the body to build and repair tissues. It is essential for muscle protein synthesis. Optimal protein intake contributes to increased muscle mass, strength and function. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the Academy of Dietetics and Nutrition has outlined the following nutrient recommendations:

Protein – 15-20% of daily caloric intake. This means that if you are following a diet of 2,000 kcal/day, you should be consuming 300-400 calories from protein sources. However, more specific recommendations are as follows:

1.2 – 2.0g/kg/bw/day. This means that an individual needs to consume 1.2 -2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. For example, a person weighing 140lbs (64 kilograms) should be eating 77-128 grams of protein per day, depending on activity level and/or training intensity. Ideally, adaptations created by training can be maximized by ingesting the above target as 0.3 g/kg/bw (so about 20 grams of protein for the above individual) after exercise sessions, and every 3 to 5 hours over multiple meals. High quality sources of protein include lean meats, milk, eggs, fish and seafood.

Carbohydrates are also a necessary component of a well-balanced diet. They provide the body with energy in the form of glucose, which is necessary to support bodily functions and physical activity. The recommendation for carbohydrates is 50-60% of daily caloric intake. More specifically, 6-10 g/kg/bw/day. This translates to 384-640 grams of carbohydrate per day for an individual weighing 140lbs. High quality sources of carbohydrate include whole grains, fruits, and beans.

Does eating fat make you fat?

It has long been (mistakenly) believed that eating fat will make you fat. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Excess calories consumed in the form of any of the macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, or fat) will be converted to storage in the form of body fat. And in actuality, an excess of carbohydrates is often the more likely culprit in adding pounds to your waistline. Dietary fat is an essential part of an individual’s nutritional intake as it supports a number of bodily functions. These include sustained energy and assisting in the absorption of vitamins. It is recommended that fat intake should be <30% of total kcal/day (and less than 10% from saturated fat). So for a person weighing 140lbs, he or she should be eating less than 600 calories from fat per day. High quality sources of fat include avocado, cheese, nuts, and olive oil.

Are you drinking enough water?

Optimal health and exercise performance also requires appropriate hydration. Like diet, hydration needs should also be tailored to the individual. When participating in physical activity, individuals should be well hydrated prior to exercise and consume enough fluid during and after exercise to account for fluid losses. The goal is to limit total body fluid deficit to <2% of bodyweight during exercise. A proposed fluid plan by the joint position of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine is 0.4 to 0.8 L/hour; however, they stress the need to customize this to the individual based on body mass and sweat rate.

Maintaining good nutritional habits will allow an individual to stay healthy and (hopefully) injury free while maximizing adaptations to an exercise program. A well balanced diet will include a proper ratio of protein, carbohydrates, fats as well as sufficient fluid intake.



1. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Thomas, D. Travis et al. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics , Volume 116 , Issue 3 , 501 – 528.

2. “Nutrition and Performance Resources.” – NCAA Sports Medicine Handbook GUIDELINE 2f: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Revised May 2009.