Diet for a Power Athlete

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Power sports require a different approach to diet than endurance events. Maintaining muscle mass, strength and power is key, whether you're weightlifting, powerlifting, taking part in field events such as the javelin or shot put, or even sprinting. But it's unlikely you'll need quite the amount of energy-boosting carbohydrates in your diet that marathon runners, triathletes and cyclists do.

Make Protein a Priority

Protein doesn't do much in the way of providing energy, but it does aid with muscle growth and retention -- something that is crucial in maintaining optimal strength and power. According to registered dietitian Alexandra Caspero, power athletes need between 1.2 and 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight -- or 0.55 to 0.77 grams per pound of body weight -- each day. Protein timing is critical, notes Stuart Phillips in an article for the "International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism." The one-hour period after training is the most important time to eat protein, and athletes should focus on high-quality sources such as meat, fish, dairy and eggs.

Count Your Calories

While power events don't typically burn a high number of calories, you need to eat enough to maintain your size and strength. Calorie intake depends on your current body weight and your goals. As a guide, strength coach and powerlifter Jordan Syatt recommends aiming for 13 to 15 calories per pound of body weight each day when trying to maintain your weight. If you need to lose weight to drop down a weight class or improve your power-to-weight ratio, 10 to 12 calories per pound is more appropriate, whereas for gaining mass, shoot for 16 to 18 calories per pound.

Crucial Carbs

Carbs aren't just for energy -- they're important for maintaining body weight and building muscle, too. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency recommends eating between 50 percent and 70 percent of your daily calories in the form of carbohydrate. Phillips, on the other hand, advises going as low as 30 percent and as high as 65 percent of your total daily intake from carbs. On a 3,000-calorie-per-day diet, this would mean consuming between 900 and 1,950 calories from carbs. Like protein, the most important time to load up on carbs is before and after competitions and training.

Planning It Right

Sports dietitians Michelle Rockwell and Susan Kundrat of the University of Illinois recommend eating five to six times per day. This could be three square meals, plus a snack, meal or shake before and after workouts. Begin the day with a protein-packed breakfast like eggs on a whole-grain bagel or a ham and vegetable omelet with a bowl of oats on the side. Make your lunch protein-based too -- a wrap with turkey and salad or a pasta salad with canned tuna are good choices. For your evening meal, have protein in the form of beef, more poultry, fish or a vegetarian protein substitute, along with plenty of vegetables. Before and after workouts or contests, focus on carbohydrate-dense foods -- crackers, fruit, sports drinks, chocolate milk and rice cakes will all supply easily digested carbs. Adjust your portions to suit your weight-loss or weight-gain goals, body weight and competition schedule.