8 essential nutrition tips for peak sports performance

Hey there fellow athlete! Are you hitting a roadblock with your training? You might be finding that you're working really hard in the gym but not seeing the results in muscle growth, fat loss, or improvements in your cardio or strength. Well, it might be time to look at what you're fueling your body with. I've learned a thing or two in my years as a performance dietitian, and I'm here to share some key insights into how your nutrition could be the game-changer you've been searching for.


1. Protein power

Not eating enough protein at the right time can actually undo your hard work and break down muscle. To strengthen and build, focus on spreading good quality protein throughout the day from sources like tofu, cottage cheese, eggs, chicken, beans, and lentils. Try to include some at every meal and snack to support muscle repair and growth.

2. Timing is everything

Our body needs the right balance of nutrients to fuel and recover from exercise. Aim to eat a meal or snack containing carbohydrates, fat, and protein about two to three hours before your workout to give your body the building blocks it needs to power through your training session. Refuel within 30 minutes to an hour after exercise with a snack or meal containing both protein and carbohydrates to support muscle recovery.

My top tip is to choose a 'simpler' carb post-workout to replenish your stores quickly. Simple carbs are digested faster and help repair muscle. Think banana, Greek yoghurt, and peanut butter.

3. Carbs: Your energy source

Carbohydrates are your body's preferred source of quick energy, especially during high-intensity workouts. Have some simple carbs around your workout like fruit and milk (dairy or plant), or oatmeal and Greek yoghurt. Then, through the rest of the day, incorporate complex carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits, and root veggies into your meals and snacks to sustain stable energy levels.

4. Hydration 101

I can't stress this one enough! Water is essential for thousands of functions in the body, and proper hydration is key for performance and recovery. Aim to drink water regularly throughout the day, around 2-2.5 litres. We lose more during cardiovascular exercise, so increase your fluid intake before, during, and after. Pay attention to your wee - pale yellow indicates good hydration, while darker may signal dehydration. Look after those kidneys!

5. The power of micronutrients

Focus on consuming a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables to ensure you're getting a wide range of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. Incorporate leafy greens, berries, citrus fruits, and bell peppers into your meals and snacks to support overall health and immune function. Greens are an incredible source of folate, a key B vitamin needed for DNA and muscle repair and synthesis.

6. Balanced eating for long-term performance

Focus on building balanced meals that include a combination of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats to support overall health and performance. Aim to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, one-quarter with lean protein, and one-quarter with whole grains or starchy vegetables.

7. Supplements simplified

While supplements can be useful in certain situations, they should not replace a balanced diet. Focus on getting the majority of your nutrients from whole foods, and consider supplements like protein powder, creatine, or branched-chain amino acids only if needed and under the guidance of a sports dietitian.

8. Getting personal

Optimal nutrition looks different depending on the type of exercise you are doing, your body type, and metabolic profile, and if you are working with a health condition. Some people struggle to gain weight or can be more injury-prone, but the great news is that personalised nutrition can help overcome those barriers.

These tips will get you started on the path to success. Whether you're a seasoned athlete or just starting out on your fitness journey, taking the time to think about your nutrition is time very well spent - but I might be a little biased!

If you're ready to dive deeper into what you need to eat to fuel your specific goals, let's connect! Book a discovery call with me, and together, we can create a personalised plan to help you unlock your full performance potential. Keep pushing forward and, as always, train happy!

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London WC2H & W1H
Written by Emily Reilly, RD, MNutr
London WC2H & W1H

Hi, I’m Emily! As an experienced Registered Dietitian, I am passionate about the life-changing power of nutrition in wellness, performance and medical care. I founded my private practice in central London where I work with my clients to translate cutting-edge nutritional research into tailored, practical, and inspiring personalised coaching.

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