Daily Caloric Requirements for Athletes

In addition to regular training, consuming the proper caloric intake every day helps to boost your athletic performance. Often this caloric intake depends upon a number of factors, including gender, body type and size, activities performed and performance goals. At the most basic level, athletes need to eat at least 1,800 calories per day, according to the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition Additional calories increase based on the activity performed.

A competitive crew team is rowing. Credit: Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images


Endurance athletes, particularly runners should consume more calories based on their body weight, gender and average amount of miles ran per day. Men should consume 6 to 10 percent more calories than women each day because they require more calories for the muscles to properly function and tend to burn a greater number of calories on average than women. Consider this comparison: a 130-pound woman who runs 30 miles a week requires 18 to 20 calories per pound (about 2,400 calories a day) while a 160-pound man who runs the same amount should consume 20 to 22 calories per day (about 3,200 calories per day). Endurance athletes should consume a base of nutritionally sound foods, such as low-fat proteins, vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products, and soy foods. These type of athletes also should consume a meal high in carbohydrates and protein following a long run.

Resistance Training

Compared to endurance athletes, resistance exercisers require significantly less calories because they often perform less aerobic activity; aerobic activities burn more calories than resistance training. Weightlifters and bodybuilders focus not only on the amount of calories on the whole, but also the composition of carbohydrates, fats and protein contained within those calories. If you wish to increase muscle mass with resistance training, you should consume higher levels of protein. When working to build muscle mass, consume an average of 1.5 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Athletes should consider their daily caloric requirements based on their basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the amount of calories needed to sustain your body weight. Consume more calories than your caloric expenditure in order to see muscle gain. For example, if you're a 150-pound man whose body fat is between 18 and 22 percent, you have a BMR of 1,620 calories. As a weightlifting athlete at the same weight, you should consume at least 2,120 calories per day to gain muscle.

Competitive Athletes

Competitive athletes who practice and train daily for the equivalent hours of a full-time job have very high caloric needs in order to support their activity. Competitive athletes may require up to 6,000 calories a day for men and as many as 4,000 calories for women. These types of athletes should consume five or six small meals per day in order to consume the needed calories to sustain athletic performance. These types of requirements are associated with professional football players, swimmers and tennis players.

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