A Balanced Diet

A Balanced Diet

Nutrition and diet

In order to stay in good health it’s important to maintain a balanced diet. For athletes to be able to perform at their best a balanced diet is vital. The body is able to take energy from the food in kilojoules. The amount of energy your body requires depends on your body type and how much physical activity you partake in. How energy is stored in your body affects how well you perform in sport as well as your body shape and weight.


A balanced diet means that you consume all of the seven components laid out in the table below.

Food type Properties Sport types Sources
Carbohydrates Gives the body a quick burst of energy. It should make up 60% of an individual’s diet. Running: athletes will eat a lot of carbohydrates while training and before a marathon. PastaCerealsPotatoes
Fats(NOTE: unsaturated fats are healthy as opposed to saturated fats from animal products which can lead to serious conditions like obesity and heart disease). Provides the body with slow releasing energy. The diet should comprise of 25% fat.

Walking and low impact exercise: due to the fact that the energy is released slowly fats are not good for high energy training. OilsDairyNutsFish

Protein Builds up and repairs the muscles. It should make up 15% of the diet. Needed for hard training and for injury recovery. Athletes that require a lot of power, for example weight lifters, consumes a lot of protein. MeatFishPulsesNuts

Vitamins Assists with bodily functions and concentration. For example:

  • A assists with vision
  • B is needed for energy production and helps reduce stress
  • C is good for healthy skin
  • D is needed for healthy teeth and bones
  • E is a powerful antioxidant
Assists with mental functions like the ability to remain calm and make quick decisions. VegetablesFresh fruit
Minerals Assist with the release of energy from food. For example:

  • Zinc is beneficial for the immune system and the skin
  • Potassium is good for blood pressure
  • Iron is needed for the blood
Important when training hard and assists with decision making. VegetablesFruitFish
Fibre Aids with digestion and helps to keep an individual’s bowel movements ‘regular’. Also gives that full up feeling. Healthy digestion is important for sport. It also helps with weight control.

VegetablesFruitWholegrain cereals
Water Important for fluid levels. Prevents dehydration, especially when sweating during exercise The tap!

Unbalanced diets

An unbalanced diet can lead to malnourishment. Someone who is malnourished can be either underweight (anorexic) or overweight (obese). It can also cause deficiency disease including rickets, which is caused by too little vitamins in the diet, or Type 2 diabetes.

Special diets

Sometimes an athlete will take part in a special type of diet in conjuncture with their training.

Carbohydrate loading, for example, is where an individual will consume as much carbohydrate as they can. This increases the amount of glycogen stored in their body so that they can keep going for longer. Some endurance athletes, like marathon runners, will eat in this way for about a week before their event.

A high protein diet is used by athletes to build muscle. However, carbohydrates are also important in order to retain a good level of energy.

School influences

Over the last few years schools have become more aware of what constitutes a healthy diet. There are now set standards and requirements that have to be met in terms of what is served for lunch and the choices of food available.

The Whole School Food Policy was established so that everyone involved within a school, from teachers to stakeholders, is part of promoting healthy eating. The aim is to spread the important of healthy eating through as many channels as possible including:

  • the National Curriculum
  • extra-curricular activities
  • providing healthy food through all sources, for example, breakfast clubs, tuck shops, school lunches and vending machines
  • taking part in national and regional initiatives
  • through advertising and sponsorships
  • at school events

Energy requirements

The measurement used in terms of the energy your body takes from food is kilojoules or kilocalories. Your body needs enough energy for your:

  • Basic Metabolic Rate (BMR) which refers to the amount of kilojoules needed to survive.
  • Physical Activity Level (PAL) which is the amount of kilojoules you need to carry out your level of physical activity

To figure out how much energy you need on a daily basis you simply add these two amounts together:

daily energy requirement = BMR + PAL

For example, a larger person needs more BMR kilojoules on a daily basis whereas an athlete training every day needs more PAL kilojoules.

People who eat more calories than they lose put on weight. On the other hand, people who eat less energy lose weight.

It’s not healthy for a sportsperson to eat consume too little energy: they simply won’t be able to perform at the best. Some sports even require an individual to be heavy but heavier in terms of muscle, like a heavy weight boxer or a rugby player. If someone is heavier because they’re fat or obese then this isn’t healthy and they won’t be able to perform to the best of their ability.