What Should Sprinters Eat?

Sprinters have increased nutrition requirements that are based on the same principles of whole grain, lean protein and vegetables recommended for the general population. Interval training can significantly deplete glycogen stores and necessitate that sprinters obtain adequate carbohydrate. Sprinters and other speed athletes often work with registered dietitians to plan their nutrition.


Sprinters eat with the goal of reducing body weight and fat, and to gain muscle, which will improve performance. Reducing body fat optimizes the power-to-weight ratio. Sprinters must also consume enough carbohydrates to provide energy for interval training and to optimize the response of protein synthesis to their specialized training regimens.


The American Dietetic Association recommends athletes consume 6 to 10 g of carbohydrates per kilogram of weight, 1.2 to 1.7 g per kilogram of weight for protein and to keep fat intake between 20 percent to 35 percent of total calories. These recommendations are acceptable for sprinters. According to research compiled by Louise Burke in "Practical Sports Nutrition," sprinters generally do not have a significantly increased need for protein and do not generally need protein-only supplements 2.


The ADA advises that athletes follow the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans in making food selections 1. Sprinters should consume a balanced diet of whole grains such as brown rice, bulgur or whole wheat pasta with lean proteins such as turkey or beans and ample fruits and vegetables. Fats should come from heart-healthful sources such as nuts and seed oils. Depending on their training regimen, sprinters need to consume adequate calories to fuel their activities.


Timing meals is important for sprinters and other speed athletes. The ADA recommends consuming pre-exercise snacks that contain simple carbohydrates, are low in fiber, salt and fat and moderate in protein, such as a piece of toast with peanut butter. During exercise, sprinters should focus on adequate hydration. Recovery meals should provide fluids, electrolytes, energy and carbohydrates to replace muscle glycogen lost during exercise.