What Every Athlete Needs to Know About Nutrition

(Last Updated On: December 13, 2018)

The Playbook – Know Your Macronutrients

To lose weight you have to eat fewer calories than what your body burns. To add muscle, you have to eat more calories than what your body burns. This will result in 50% of your results and rest is proper training (which you can learn about here)

Learning how to count macronutrients is going to make your career as a lifelong athlete much easier.

If you want to look good and perform your best learning how to count macros at some point in your life is going to save you lots of headaches.

Macronutrients are proteins, fats, and carbohydrates and there are a few numbers you should know.

What you need to know:

– Protein: 4 calories per gram
– Carbohydrates: 4 calories per gram
– Fat: 9 calories per gram

If you are serious about your health, looking better and increasing your performance in the gym or in a specific sport you should track macronutrients.

It can be as short as a month. I have a dieting for beginner’s course and that’s exactly how I teach it.

My clients get a better understanding of portion sizes and what is in certain foods. By the end of the first few weeks, they can continue (if they want), or they switch to a more sustainable approach that they can follow for life.

Learning how to track macronutrients will teach you how to adjust your diet for the rest of your life.

How athletes should eat



If you want to keep or gain lean muscle you need to consume enough protein. If you want to increase performance in a sport you want to increase lean muscle.

Do you compete in a sport where you have to compete in a specific weight class? It will still benefit you to hold as much lean muscle opposed to fat.

Protein is the building block to repair broken down muscle. It is also more filling than carbohydrates and less calorie dense than fat which makes it important when trying to lose fat.

Common protein sources:
– eggs
– fish
– pork
– beef
– chicken
– turkey
– protein powders


One of the benefits when tracking your macros is getting a better understanding of what else is in these food sources.

For example: 4 oz of beef is going to be different than 4 oz of egg whites because the fat content in beef is going to be much higher.

I recommend eating .8- 1g per lb of bodyweight and can jump as high as 1.25-1.5 grams per pound when in a larger deficit.

Good sources of protein



When we lift weights and do things like sprinting, our bodies use a form of carbohydrate stored in the muscle, called glycogen.

Low levels of glycogen negatively affect our ability to perform and grow.

Our body releases a hormone called insulin when we eat carbohydrates. Insulin is an anabolic hormone to muscle as well as fat. That is why it’s important to have carbohydrates in your diet but not too much.

Carbohydrates are the preferred source of fuel for hard workouts that will build and preserve lean muscle. Don’t be the guy who goes into the workout with zero energy and can’t get a decent training session in.

This is a great starting point for most people:

– Rest day: <.5g per lb
– Light or Moderate workout: .5-1.4g per lb.
– Heavy and Intense workout: 1.4-2g per lb

These are just general guidelines. If you have been on a low carb diet don’t jump up to 2g per lb. You won’t feel good and your body won’t react in a favorable way.

You aren’t doing yourself any favors.

When you eat carbohydrates your body is more resistant to fatigue and motivated for hard workouts.

Common carbohydrate sources:

– grains (bread, rice, pasta, potatoes)
– fruit
– veggies
– most processed foods
– sauces

After tracking your macronutrients for a few weeks, most are surprised at the extra calories they are taking in.

When tracking your macros and calories it’s important to account for all, not just the main macro.




Fats affect our hormones and are important for our bodies to function.

They affect skin and hair quality, cushioning for organs, cushioning for joints, promote cell health, optimal hormone levels and nervous system health.

It’s also one of the tastiest macronutrients and also a muscle building savior.

Research shows the real culprit for heart disease is eating in a calorie surplus for extended periods of time, not fat.

Although fats CAN be good for you, they are more calorie dense than the other macronutrients. Fats are 9 calories per gram, that’s more than double protein and carbs, and they add up fast.

For athletes trying to gain weight, fat is one of your best friends. Since it is more calorie dense it makes it easier to meet your calorie requirements rather than trying to stuff yourself with protein.

Not only does that become difficult and filling but it also crushes your wallet.

Common Fat Sources:

– avocado
– nuts and nut butter
– coconut oil
– olive oil
– fats from foods such as bacon, eggs, cheeses, and butter

Roughly 15-40% of total calories should come from fats.

The minimum daily fat intake to function is 10% of body weight.

I recommend 15-25% of total daily calories come from fat. This will depend on the type of activity you perform and how you react to foods.

Now that you know how to track macronutrients and have a good idea of how much you should be eating it’s a good idea to know what to do when you don’t have your scale.

Michael Phelps

7 Nutrition Rules

1. Eat 3-5 times per day

This can be 3 meals and 2 snacks or 5 smaller meals or 4 meals and 1 snack. They key is going to be finding a meal frequency that is easiest to fit with your lifestyle.


2. Eat every 2-4 hours

This will keep your body fueled throughout the day with more consistent energy. This is also the best way to prevent overeating and binging.

Choose a meal frequency that fits your lifestyle and one that you can stick to. Don’t spread them out too far if you get so starving and want to eat everything.


3. Drink lots of water

Even more than what you’re thinking. Staying hydrated is important to keep your body running properly. It helps prevent injuries and decreases joint pain and inflammation.

Water retention


4. When in doubt eat protein and veggies

Remember from the section above how important protein is?

I don’t want to repeat myself, but it’s very important. If you aren’t sure what to eat you can go wrong with a protein and veggie meal, especially if you want to lose fat.


5. Don’t eat foods that make you feel crappy (even if it’s supposed to be good for you)

Just because someone says a food is ‘healthy’ it does not mean it is the best for you.

If your trainer says to eat a banana and have a protein shake before your workout but you always feel like you are going to puke. Get a new trainer and a new pre-workout meal.


6. Eat your carbs around your workouts

Play around with the size, different ratios of protein, carb and fat, and how far away from your workout you eat.

I recommend eating 45 minutes to 2 hours before your workout, depending on the size of the meal/snack.

Play with this and see where you feel best.

You’ll hear people say 1-3 hours, but I’m always starving mid-workout if I do 3 hours and sometimes I’m in a crunch and a small snack is good at 45 minutes.

The size of the meal and type of food will be the biggest determining factor.


7. Have protein shakes when I can’t get to real food.

In most cases, it’s better to eat real food as opposed to supplementing with a protein shake.

If you are in a crunch and can’t get food or eat, make sure you take a high-quality protein.

Do not random junk that Tommy Two Guns is selling at the local supplement store.

Do your research and make sure the company is regulated and pays to have their products tested.


What a Sample Day of Eating Looks Like

Here is what a sample day of eating would look like for someone with an afternoon workout scheduled.

– 7am — Anytime meal (protein, veggies, fat)
– 11am — Pre-workout meal (protein, carb, little fat)
– 1pm — Workout
– 2pm — Post workout shake or meal (protein, carb, no fat)
– 6pm — Anytime meal (protein, veggies, fat)
– 8pm — Anytime meal (protein, veggies, fat)

As you can see this set up follows the 7 nutrition rules above even without counting macronutrients.


Post Game Review

As someone who takes their training seriously, use this guide to take your body and performance to the next level.

Maybe you’re trying to add muscle, but aren’t seeing changes, if that’s the case try this.

If you’re interested in losing fat get your free guide showing you exactly what you need to do.

Thank you for your time, let me know if there is anything I can do to help. If you enjoyed the article, please share it with one person.

Joey Percia