The Eating Habits of Top Athletes – You Can Eat Like a Pro, Too

Eating habits of top athletes

What diet do most athletes follow?

Athletes typically follow a diet similar to the one recommended for all individuals, divided as such: 45 to 65% carbohydrates, 15 to 25% protein, and 20 to 35% fats.
An athlete energy needs will vary depending on the sport and their training intensity. This can range from around 2,000 calories a day for a shorter-duration sport (such as spint), and up to 10,000 calories per day or more for a high intensity sport such as running, cycling or soccer.


How often do athletes eat?

Like most people, most athletes eat 2-5 times a day: 3 main meals and 2 healthy snacks.


How do you eat like a professional athlete?

Follow the same eating rule: 45 to 65% carbohydrates, 15 to 25% protein, and 20 to 35% fats.
Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, cereals (rice, quinoa, whole-grain bread and pasta), lean meat (poultry and fish) and vegetarian alternatives such as tofu or legumes. They also get protein from milk, yoghurt, cheeses and vegetable milk (soy milk, coconut milk, almond milk). Sources of healthy fats include avocado, healthy oils (coconut oil, olive oil), salmon, nuts and seeds.



5 top athletes share their meal plans

They’re proven to work for high performers and you can eat like them, too.


Serena Williams

Nutrition is a huge part of Serena Williams’ success in tennis. She regards food as fuel and eats mostly a plant-based diet, which involves greens and protein.
She told Women’s Health her philosophy is “eat to live. Don’t live to eat. […] I want to have a healthy lifestyle and, so you know, [I’m eating] a lot of greens and mostly plant-based lately, just super healthy stuff.”
She also likes to cook. When she’s not eating out, she will typically cook her food when she has time.
Serena also drinks lots of water.

Lionel Messi

Most of Messi’s dietary regimen comes from Italian nutritionist Giuliano Poser. He has five key foods in his diet: water, whole grains, fresh fruit and fresh vegetables, olive oil.
“Also very good are nuts and seeds,” Poser explained and has also advised his client to cut down on the sugar, as it is the worst thing for the muscles. Excessive meat consumption is also something his trainer adviced him to avoid.
Messi’s “favourite recipe” was revealed by Barcelona to be roasted chicken with root vegetables.

Roger Federer

Tennis man Roger Federer has to eat right to stay on top of the game at 38 years old. Being Swiss, he likes to eat different types of cheese.
His breakfast may consist of homemade waffles with a fresh fruit compote, fresh juice, coffee and a vinegar shot.
Before a match, he will eat a plate of pasta. “Two hours before every match, I eat pasta with light sauce … I have been doing it for 20 years.”, Federer says.
He typically snacks on snack bars and bananas, which are a good source of carbohydrate and potassium, and help him refuel and prevent muscle cramps.
For dinner, Federer will choose specialties from Italian, Japanese and Indian restaurants.

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan has five to six frequent but small meals, made up to 70% carbs, 20% fats and 10% proteins.
“Michael is not a big eater. He eats only when he’s hungry and only until he feels comfortable rather than full.”, his trainer Tim Grover said.
His breakfast consists of a large bowl of oatmeal with strawberries, blueberries and raisins, scrambled egg whites, and glass of orange juice.
For lunch, Jordan will have lean proteins like chicken breast or hamburger with a healthy carb (such as whole-grain pasta or a baked potato) and a green salad.
His snacks will consist of “a combination of Gatorade, protein powders and fresh fruit.”
Dinner is flexible – he can have whatever he wants, according to his personal trainer.


Usain Bolt

The fastest man’s meal plan is a bit different than most top athletes diets – he eats most of his food at dinner. Also surprisingly, Usain Bolt loves to eat guilty pleasure food like pasta, corned beef, and breakfast sandwiches.
His breakfast consists of a simple egg sandwich, then has a light lunch of pasta with corned beef or fish.
“During the day I only eat just enough to have energy for training and to make sure I digest fast enough. But at nights, before I go to sleep, I consume a lot of food.”, he told GQ.
His dinner consist of broccoli, Jamaican dumplings and/or roasted chicken.
He will also snack on apples, mango, and pineapples throughout the day.

6 thoughts on “The Eating Habits of Top Athletes – You Can Eat Like a Pro, Too”

  1. When looking at the diets athletes have, it’s impressive to see just how many calories they need to maintain a high level of play. Great information shared here!

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