Published on : 27 August 20194 min reading time

The sportsman’s diet or staple diet is nothing short of the balanced and varied diet that we should all adopt to maintain good health, fitness and improve our performance. A small review to achieve this simply and effortlessly…

It is balanced in the sense that it provides all macronutrients in ideal proportions (proteins, fats, carbohydrates). It is varied, i.e. it uses all food categories to avoid micronutrient deficiencies (iron, magnesium, vitamins…). Finally, it is balanced in quantity to avoid excesses, but also restrictions. So there is no question of excluding a food category.

Objective of a balanced diet

Eat everything in the right quantity.

That is to say:

  • Favour foods that are beneficial to our health (fruits, vegetables, starchy foods, fish, meat, etc.),
  • Limit, but do not exclude, sweet products (sweets, sweet drinks, etc.), savoury products (aperitifs cakes, chips, etc.) and fatty products (sausages, butter, cream, etc.).

The quantities

It all depends on your weight, age, physical activity, metabolism, etc.

The energy balance

We talk about energy intake, which must correspond to energy expenditure (basic metabolism and activities) to maintain a stable weight and improve performance. If we want to gain mass, the energy intake will have to be higher (moderately) than the expenses: the balance is then in excess. Conversely, if you want to lose weight, you must aim for a deficit in energy balance, by reducing your intake and/or increasing your expenses.

The balanced energy intake can thus vary from 1,800 kilocalories to 2,800 for women from the most sedentary to the most athletic, and from 2,100 kcal to 3,500 kcal for men.

The quality

The foods consumed provide micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, fibre, water and macronutrients:

  • Proteins (found in meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, but also in cereals and starches).
  • Carbohydrates (provided by cereals and starches, but also by sweet products).
  • Fat (fat).

The variety

All foods provide vitamins and minerals, but in a very disparate way, so variety is essential and no food category should be excluded: butter, for example, will contribute to providing vitamin A, red meat with a lot of iron, calcium dairy products, fruits and vegetables with B group vitamins, but also vitamin C, especially for citrus fruits and green vegetables, etc. Otherwise, there is a real risk of deficiency.

It should be noted that fruits and vegetables will also contribute significantly to the intake of fibre (30 g of fibre per day are recommended), which is beneficial to intestinal transit and will play a role in the absorption of nutrients.

In practice, you should not eat the same thing every day, and if you need a little poultry for example, a little cereal, legumes, butter, etc., you should also vary the types of vegetables, raw vegetables, breads, dairy products, etc.

The hydration

All foods provide water: meat contains on average 65% water, raw fruit 85% and raw vegetables 90% water (the latter are to be inserted daily in your diet, as they are very low in calories and rich in vitamins and minerals).

This insufficient intake should be supplemented by regularly drinking water during the day, the only drink essential to the body, up to 1 liter to 1.5 liter per day. Sweetened drinks should be limited (to be reserved on certain occasions) and counted (remember that each gram of carbohydrates provides 4 kcal and that fresh fruit juices should be limited to a maximum of one per day). All alcohols are to be avoided, as they are useless for the body, or even rather harmful and very caloric (1 g of alcohol = 7 kcal).

This water intake should be increased in the event of heavy perspiration: high heat, high physical activity, fever.

To remember

Apart from exceptional sporting situations where the diet must satisfy particular physiological needs, the athlete must respect the basic principles of a balanced diet. Protein, vitamin and mineral requirements are met by increasing total energy intake in line with expenditure levels, based on three main meals and any snacks that increase carbohydrate intake.