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A Male Athlete's Diet

By Bethany Fong, R.D.

A male athlete needs a healthy diet to support peak performance. Male athletes have higher needs for calories than the average individual and need to stay well hydrated, especially during intense physical activities. A healthy diet should follow federal dietary guidelines and include a variety of foods to meet daily requirements for essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients.


Food provides calories, the body’s source of energy. Male athletes require more daily calories than nonathletes and sedentary individuals. While the average person needs about 2,000 calories a day, the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports (PCPFS) says athletes may require an additional 1,000 to 1,500 calories a day. A male athlete can determine if he is getting the correct amount of calories by monitoring his weight. Weight gain could be a sign of excess calorie consumption, and weight loss could indicate a calorie deficit.


Macronutrients are carbohydrates, protein and fat. According to the PCPFS, an athlete’s diet should be composed of 45 to 65 percent of calories from carbohydrates, 10 to 35 percent of calories from protein and 20 to 35 percent of calories from fat. The PCPFS says carbohydrate intake should be about 5 to 7 grams (g)/kilogram (kg) of body weight for moderate intensity workouts and 7 to 12 g/kg for high intensity endurance sports. Protein intake should equal 1.2 to 1.7 g/kg for an athlete. The PCPFS recommends that athletes focus on meeting carbohydrate and protein requirements before fat requirements.

Vitamins and Minerals

A well-balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean proteins, beans and legumes can provide all the vitamins and minerals a male athlete needs to be healthy. According to Colorado State University (CSU), there is no evidence that vitamin and mineral supplements improve athletic performance. Vitamins that are particularly important for male athletes include thiamin, riboflavin and niacin because they fuel metabolism, the process that converts food into energy. Minerals like sodium, potassium, iron and calcium ensure proper functioning of the heart and muscles and support strong bones and healthy blood.


Water is lost through sweating and needs to be consistently replaced. According to the PCPFS, male athletes who are not properly hydrated can suffer life-threatening heat injuries. CSU recommends drinking 6 to 12 cups of water before an athletic event and half a cup of water every 10 to 15 minutes during an event. After an athletic event or workout, athletes should drink 2 cups of fluid for every pound of weight loss.

Carbohydrate Loading

Carbohydrate loading is a technique used to increase endurance. According to the PCPFS, carbohydrate loading may include eating 10 to 12 g/kg of carbohydrates 5 to 7 days prior to an athletic event. The PCPFS says most athletes do not need excess amounts of carbohydrate if they consume a diet that derives at least half of its calories from carbohydrates. Carbohydrate loading may only benefit male athletes who participate in endurance sports that last for more than 90 minutes at a time.

Protein Supplements

Athletes in strength-training sports who are trying to increase muscle mass often consume high amounts of protein by taking protein supplements. According to the PCPFS, the best way to build muscle is to train hard and consume enough calories. Eating a healthy diet that provides 1 to 1.5 g of protein/kg will provide more than enough protein to energize the body and build muscle mass.

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