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What Do Pro Athletes Eat?

author image Clay McNight
Clay McNight is currently a nutrition writer with Demand Media Studios.
What Do Pro Athletes Eat?
Pro athletes typically eat diets high in protein to help their muscles recover from competitions. Photo Credit: moodboard/moodboard/Getty Images

Professional athletes know that a healthy diet is an important part of performing at an elite level. Diets high in protein allow for muscle recovery after a workout, while carbohydrates provide fuel for the muscles. Fat intake is typically kept at a moderate level and junk food is avoided. For pro athletes, staying hydrated is important to avoid the muscle cramps and fatigue that come with dehydration.

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Basketball Players

High protein is consumed by basketball players.
High protein is consumed by basketball players. Photo Credit: indigolotos/iStock/Getty Images

Registered dietitian Tavis Piattoly notes that professional basketball players need to maintain a well-balanced diet to compete at the highest level. Eating every three hours is a vital part of maintaining energy, helping the body recover and maximizing performance. Professional basketball players should consume healthy carbohydrates throughout the day to maintain energy levels. High-quality lean protein enables the body to recover and repair damaged muscle tissue. Because fat takes longer to convert to energy, consumption should be kept at a moderate level.


Salads and vegetables are preferable for lunch and dinner.
Salads and vegetables are preferable for lunch and dinner. Photo Credit: Barbara DudziƄska/iStock/Getty Images

Top-ranked professional golfer Tiger Woods prefers to stick to a diet rich in lean meats, seafood, fruits and vegetables. Examples of typical meals for the elite golfer include an egg-white omelet with vegetables for breakfast and grilled chicken or fish with salad or vegetables for lunch and dinner. Though Woods adheres to a diet rich in proteins, he notes that every athlete needs some form of carbohydrates to fuel extended bouts of high-level performance. Woods prefers consuming sports drinks during competitions, rather than loading up on carbohydrate-rich meals.

Football Players

Fish oil.
Fish oil. Photo Credit: bodym/iStock/Getty Images

Former NFL nutritionist for the Kansas City Chiefs, Mitzi Dulan, told U.S. News & World Report, as published on the Huffington Post, that there can be a lot of variance among eating habits between different professional football players. However, she noted that it is important for players to eat carbohydrates with each meal, ideally from healthy sources such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. High-quality protein sources such as chicken, lean beef, fish or beans are also important for reducing muscle soreness. Dulan recommends full strength sports drinks for a boost of energy at the beginning of workouts. She also recommends that players take a few dietary supplements, including fish oil, a multivitamin/multimineral, protein powder and creatine.

CrossFit Athletes

Eggs for breakfast.
Eggs for breakfast. Photo Credit: Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images

An article on the CrossFit Games website interviewed three cross fit games athletes: Annie Thorisdottir, Mikko Salo and Chris Spealler. Thorisdottir noted that she drinks a lot of protein shakes and eats a lot of protein bars before competing. She also stated that she ate chicken between events. On competition days, Salo ate eggs, fruit and coffee for breakfast and later chicken, eggs, beans and energy bars. Spealler said that after competitions he would eat chicken with sweet potatoes or something similar and that he drank "a ton" of water.

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