Meal Plan For Sprinters


Meal Plan For Sprinters is a meal plan specially crafted for sprinters. In this plan, you will eat the right foods that help your body recover faster when you’re not performing workouts. I know that coaching athletes is a labor of love and when you sign up to work with me I do my best to make sure you are getting the most out of your training. To that end I want every athlete to be able to go home at night and enjoy a hot, delicious meal with their family.

A Sprinter’s Diet

Athletic woman jumping over hurdle

Women’s sprinter.

Sprinters serve as a good illustration of how crucial nutrition is to performance. In order to perform at their best, athletes need to eat properly so they have the energy to keep up a rigorous training regimen and don’t accumulate body fat, which can impair performance. You can adjust your nutrition to improve your performance on the track even if you’re not sprinting at the highest level and are just doing it for enjoyment, for your school, or as a member of an athletic team.

Fueling the Fire

Athletic woman running a race


One of the most crucial factors for sprinters to think about is calories, yet they can be a bit of a challenge. Because workouts are demanding, you require a lot of calories for energy. To generate power, you must have a low body fat percentage while still having a sufficient amount of muscular mass, so body weight is also an issue. Increase your caloric intake during the off-season until your weight remains consistent week after week and you’re getting enough to feel energised for training and recover effectively from sessions. In order to prepare for a competition, sprinters frequently need to decrease body weight, according to the Australian Institute of Sport. Reduce your caloric intake as the competition draws near.

Protein Power

Scoop of chocolate whey isolate protein powder

Protein powder.

According to “Men’s Fitness,” sprinters should prioritize protein, which should account for about 1 gram per pound of body weight each day, or 60% of your daily caloric intake. Pay attention to sources of lean protein like fish and chicken breast. Allyson Felix, a sprinter who took home three gold medals at the London 2012 Olympics, suggests drinking something with protein after workouts to aid with recovery.

Counting the Carbs

Salad Greens in Bowl with Fork

Green leafy vegetables.

Sprinters don’t require a lot of carbs, in contrast to longer running events. “Men’s Fitness” suggests obtaining the majority of your carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables, preferably those that are dark in color. These include all varieties of berries as well as spinach, kale, broccoli, leeks, and cabbage. However, you may discover that eating a tiny amount of a starchier carbohydrate before a race or training session offers you an energy boost, so plan the majority of your carbohydrate intake around these activities.

On the Right Track


Sprinter Bolt claimed to eat fried chicken before a race.

Although maintaining a strict diet is important, you don’t have to adhere to it constantly. Usain Bolt, holder of the 100- and 200-meter world records, is renowned for defying the rules when it comes to diets and admits to chowing down on fast food and fried chicken before competitions. Bolt does admit that, for the most part, he sticks to a healthy diet that includes meat, fish, rice, bananas, yams, and traditional Jamaican cuisine. American sprinter Justin Gatlin adds that as you age, you need to watch what you eat more carefully if you don’t want to gain weight and lose speed.

Characteristics of the Sport
At Olympic-level competition, sprint events include the 100 m, 200 m, 400 m, 4 x 100 m
relay and 4 x 400 m relay. The 100 m, and 400 m hurdles can also be considered as
sprint events. Sprint and hurdle events rely primarily on the development of power
through anaerobic energy.
Elite sprinters train all year round with the base or off-season involving around eleven
sessions per week. Off-season training usually involves a considerable commitment to
weight training, with about one-third of the total training load being carried out in the
gym. In addition, off-season training focuses on refining technique with a combination
of sessions on the track and drill work to improve aspects such as leg speed or knee lift.
Stretching sessions, yoga, and pilates are often included to aid in recovery. As the
competitive season approaches, track work increases to include more intervals and
sprints, although technique work and weight training are still maintained. Junior and
recreational sprinters spend less hours training and training is usually seasonal.
Major competitions for elite sprinters are the Olympic Games, World Championships
and Grand Prix Circuit. Most Australian sprinters spend the winter months overseas
returning to Australia to compete in key selection events during the Australian summer.
At junior and recreational levels, competitions are usually held on a weekly basis during
the summer months.
Physical Characteristics
Power-to-weight ratio is important for sprinters, therefore maximising muscle mass and
maintaining low body fat levels is desirable.
Common Nutrition Issues
Training Nutrition
Sprinters need to consume sufficient carbohydrate to fuel training needs, however
carbohydrate requirements do not reach the level of endurance-type athletes.
Sprinters need to be mindful of maintaining low body fat levels but still need to eat a
sufficient variety and quantity of food to meet nutritional requirements and allow for the
development of muscle mass. Diets need to be nutrient-dense. This is best achieved
by including a wide variety of nutrient-dense carbohydrate sources such as bread,
cereal, fruit, vegetables and sweetened dairy products in the diet. Moderate portions of
lean sources of protein such as lean meat, skin-free chicken, eggs, low-fat dairy foods,
lentils and tofu should also be on the menu. Energy-dense foods such as cakes,
pastries, lollies, soft drinks, chocolate, alcohol and takeaways should be used sparingly.
Appropriate snacks need to be included before and after training to maximise
performance during training and to promote recovery. Snack foods such as yoghurt,
fresh fruit, low-fat flavoured milk and sandwiches are all nutritious fuel foods and make
good snacks.
Low Body-Fat Levels
Sprinters require low body fat levels whilst being strong and muscular. Low body-fat
levels usually occur naturally for male athletes, thanks to the cumulative effect of
training on the right genetic stock. However, male sprinters often need to reduce total
body mass leading into the competition phase. Some of the additional muscle mass
gained in off-season weight training is not sport specific, therefore needs to be trimmed
to achieve an ideal racing body composition. Female sprinters often need to
Written by the Department of Sports Nutrition, AIS © Australian Sports Commission 2004
manipulate their food intake and training to achieve their desired body fat levels.
Sprinters needing to reduce their body fat level should target excess kilojoules in the
diet. In particular, excess fat, sugary foods and alcohol can add unnecessary kilojoules
and would be better replaced with more nutrient-dense foods.
Preparation for Competition
Sprint events do not deplete glycogen stores therefore strict carbohydrate loading
before a competition is not necessary. The day of competition is best tackled with
glycogen stores topped up to their usual resting level. With a high-carbohydrate diet
already in place for training needs, glycogen levels can be restored before competition
with 24-36 hours of rest or very light training.
Competition Day Food and Fluid
Although sprint events only last seconds or minutes, competition can be a drawn out
affair. A typical competition day involves a number of heats and finals with variable
amounts of waiting around in between. Your nutritional goals are to keep hydrated, to
maintain blood glucose levels and to feel comfortable – avoiding hunger but not risking
the discomfort of a full stomach. It makes sense to start the day with a carbohydratebased meal. The type of meal will depend on the timing of your event and your
personal preferences.
The following foods are suitable to eat 3-4 hours before exercise:
• crumpets with jam or honey + flavoured milk
• baked potato + cottage cheese filling + glass of milk
• baked beans on toast
• breakfast cereal with milk
• bread roll with cheese/meat filling + banana
• fruit salad with fruit-flavoured yoghurt
• pasta or rice with a sauce based on low-fat ingredients (e.g. tomato, vegetables,
lean meat)
The following foods are suitable to eat 1-2 hours before exercise:
• liquid meal supplement
• milk shake or fruit smoothie
• sports bars (check labels for carbohydrate and protein content)
• breakfast cereal with milk
• cereal bars
• fruit-flavoured yoghurt
• fruit
The following foods are suitable to eat if there is less than 1 hour between events:
• sports drink
• carbohydrate gel
• cordial
• sports bars
• jelly lollies
Experiment in training if an important competition is coming up so that you can be
confident of your routine on race day. Take care to drink plenty of fluid when you are
competing in hot weather.
Elite sprinters are required to travel interstate and overseas regularly to find quality
competition opportunities. While this can be exciting, it can also be stressful. It is often
hard to meet nutritional needs in unfamiliar surroundings, especially when time and
Written by the Department of Sports Nutrition, AIS © Australian Sports Commission 2004
finances are limited. Unusual foods, different standards of food hygiene, limited food
availability and interference with usual routines can see athletes either gaining weight or
failing to meet their nutritional requirements. The following tips may help:
• Be clear about your nutritional goals and stay committed while travelling.
• Do some investigation to find out what to expect at your destination.
• Plan your accommodation with meals in mind. Organising an apartment with
cooking facilities gives you more control over your meals and can keep food
costs down. If you choose not to cook, make sure your accommodation is
conveniently located near shops and restaurants.
• Take a supply of snacks with you so you always have access to something
suitable. Cereal bars, low fat 2 minute noodles, sports drinks, breakfast cereal
and rice cakes are good options to pack.
• Make good choices in restaurants. Beware of hidden fat in restaurant meals.
Don’t be afraid to ask the waiter about cooking methods and ingredients and
request changes if necessary. Add carbohydrate to meals with plain bread,
plain rice, fruit or juice if necessary.
Sprinters who adopt restricted eating habits to maintain low body fat levels can be at
risk of a poor iron status. If in doubt, have your iron levels checked by a sports
physician. In addition, a sports dietitian will be able to help athletes to increase their
intake of iron-rich foods that are well absorbed by the body. Plant-based iron foods
such as green vegetables are poorly absorbed compared to animal-based iron foods
such as meat.
Some runners try to replace sound nutritional practices with vitamin pills, protein
powders and liquid formulas. Popping a pill is not a quick fix to feeling flat and run
down. Rather, it is necessary to address the issue of taking time to eat well and
organising an appropriate training program with adequate rest. Addressing lifestyle
habits and putting good healthy eating in place will be more useful than expensive pills.
Some supplements can help in certain situations, but this is best assessed by a sports
physician and sports dietitian.
Case Study
Despite being the most promising sprinter in the region at last year’s interschool
athletics carnival, Bernadette could only manage one bronze medal. Her program had
been busy – heats of the 100 m at 9:15 am, semi-final at 12:30 pm, final at 3:00 pm and
the 4 x 100 m relay at 4:15 pm. On the morning of the meet, Bernadette managed to
grab only a couple of mouthfuls of toast as she rushed out the door. She consoled
herself that she was too nervous to eat anyway.
By mid-morning, with the 100 m heats out of the way, Bernadette was ravenous. The
pies, hot dogs and chips at the sports ground kiosk didn’t appeal so Bernadette chose
some chocolate “for energy”. There was a delay in the start of the semis as the officials
sorted out a timing problem. Bernadette felt herself becoming hot, dehydrated and
hungry as she waited to race. She managed to make it through the semi but didn’t run
well. There wasn’t enough time between the semi and final to make it across to the
other side of the track for some water. Bernadette ran the final feeling tired from a dull
headache and finished fourth. She also timed the baton change poorly in the relay and
finished the day with third place in the relay – small comfort for the hours of training she
had completed over the last three months.
This year the story was quite different, although her training program was unchanged
and the meet program was almost the same as the previous year. The difference was a
Written by the Department of Sports Nutrition, AIS © Australian Sports Commission 2004
careful plan for competition day, organised in collaboration with her coach. Bernadette
rose earlier than usual to allow herself time for a breakfast of cereal and fruit juice. She
also packed a cooler of provisions for the day – foods and fluids that she had tested out
in training over the previous month. After the 100 m heats, Bernadette had a sandwich,
banana and fruit juice. She also took a bottle of cool sports drink to sip on leading up to
the semis and final. After coming down from the excitement of winning the 100 m final,
Bernadette was feeling too excited to eat and drink. However with an hour to go until
the relay she knew it was important to have something. Bernadette was glad she had
packed a ‘ready-to-go’ liquid meal supplement in her cooler. Refreshed and revitalised,
she prepared for the last event and helped her team win a silver medal in a closely
contested relay.
While Bernadette knows that her medals were not just the result of particular food or
drinks, her careful organisation did allow her to do justice to her talent and training,
rather than see it wasted with careless race-day mistakes.

Diet For Sprinting

Diet For Sprinting

Sprinting is more advantageous for athletes who can generate a quick burst of power using fast-twitch muscles than endurance running, which favors athletes with slim bodies. These muscles’ fibers consume mostly carbs for energy and deplete themselves quickly. Fast-twitch muscle fibers are also damaged by sprint training, which makes them grow bigger and stronger. You need enough protein in your diet as a sprinter to handle the higher demands of training, as well as enough carbohydrates, fat, and protein to sustain your energy level.

Carbohydrates and Fats

The sprinter gets his or her energy from fats and carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the primary fuel source for the fast-twitch muscle fibers that produce the rapid force during sprinting. Carbohydrates make up generally 60% of a runner’s calorie diet, but fat consumption should never fall below 15% of caloric intake. Sprinters should consume whole grains, rice, pasta, fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, and quinoa as good sources of carbs. Pick a variety of healthy fats, such as nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, lean meat, and cold-water fish.


The amino acids needed to rebuild muscle fibers after exercise or competition are found in protein. Only when temporary depletion of carbs and fats occurs can protein be employed as an energy source. According to the U.S. Institute of Medicine, adults should consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight on a daily basis. According to a research published in the “Journal of Applied Physiology,” sprinters need to consume at least 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body mass. Lean meat, chicken, fish, low-fat dairy, eggs, soybeans, and quinoa are some full sources of protein.

Foods & Timing

You should balance the nutrients in each meal you eat to complement your exercise regimen. Smoothies mixed with fruit (a source of healthy carbs) and protein powder are a great way to start the day. Alternately, choose high-protein pancakes with banana slices on top. Have a burrito bowl for lunch that is constructed of whole-grain rice, grilled chicken or steak, beans, corn, and your preferred vegetables. Prepare grilled fish, such as salmon, and serve it with steamed spinach for dinner. The dish should be served over quinoa.

A Sample Day’s Plan

To replace the muscular glycogen stores in your muscles, eat carbohydrates throughout the day. Dr. John Berardi, a nutritionist, advises taking at least 30 grams of protein and 50 to 60 grams of carbohydrates within two hours of exercise or a competition to start the recuperation process. Within a few hours of training, sprinters should avoid eating high-fiber diets, foods high in fat, and heavy meals because these foods might cause them to feel bloated and uncomfortable internally.

What food does it take to fuel athletes like Usain Bolt to Olympic success?

As one of The Conversation UK’s founding partners, Glasgow Caledonian University contributes funds.

Usain Bolt created history at the Rio Olympics by becoming the first person to win the 100- and 200-meter sprint gold medals at three successive competitions. Even though he fell short of breaking his 9.58-second world record, he still managed to dominate his rivals.

For athletes like Bolt, achieving their Olympic goals requires years of rigorous training and extreme dedication, and they must also follow stringent dietary guidelines. It’s worth looking more closely at an Olympic sprinter’s optimal diet to learn what kind of food Bolt needs to power his Olympic endeavors.

Bolt would actually need more energy leading up to the Olympics than during the competitions. High-quality training sessions for preparation burn a lot of calories that must be supplied with the right nutrients. After all, Bolt needs these training sessions to develop the essential muscle strength and skill that give him the edge over his rivals.

Protein over carbo-loading

Sprinters must maintain a wholesome, well-balanced diet while training. The usual combination of protein, carbohydrate, vitamins, and minerals serves as the foundation for this. Sprinters don’t need to carbo-load with bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, and cereals like certain endurance athletes do. Instead, the most important nutrient is likely protein, which may be found in dairy products, eggs, meat, fish, nuts, and beans. After sprint and resistance drills, which produce slight damage to the muscle fibers, protein enables muscles to heal, repair, and develop.

Another piece of chicken?

Sprinters still need carbohydrates since their bodies burn through a lot of glycogen during their workout. When we eat carbohydrates, the body converts them to glycogen, which is then stored in the muscles and liver. Since glycogen is the only fuel the body can use during such high intensity exercise, sprint training can quickly deplete glycogen stores. In order to meet Bolt’s 100-meter world record time of 9.58 seconds, energy must be produced anaerobically, or without oxygen, using fuels already present in the muscles.

Most, if not all, of the body’s glycogen reserves might be depleted during a sprint due to the all-out effort required. If Bolt performs repeated sprints of 20 to 50 meters during a workout, the majority of his muscles’ glycogen will be spent after eight to ten attempts. Therefore, replenishing depleted glycogen and repairing any normal muscular damage that has been done require good nourishment.

As the Olympics get closer and the majority of the athletes’ preparation is behind them, their energy needs decrease and they focus more on maintaining their weight. The good news for sprinters is that the type of food they can eat the night before a medal race has some fair latitude. The primary advice are to restrict fiber consumption and avoid a high-fat meal, which can weigh heavily on the stomach, in addition to following the fundamentals of a balanced diet. Athletes should also avoid eating unfamiliar foods the night before a race in order to prevent disrupting their digestive systems. It is advisable to wait until after the games are over to try the local cuisine.

You can rest assured that there is considerable wiggle room in even a world-class sprinter’s diet. Bolt wouldn’t have to continuously deny himself of his favorite food if his rumored fondness of chicken nuggets is real. Although consuming fried food every day would result in an excess of fat in the diet, athletes can get away with slightly more sugar and fat than the ordinary person due to the high energy demands of rigorous training. Bolt can therefore occasionally treat himself to a luxury, and because he just took home a gold medal, he most definitely deserves it.

Bolt’s diet is not fundamentally different from what a typical person should ideally be seeking to consume, except that of course energy requirements would be higher. Sprinters are advised to have a little higher protein consumption for repair and growth than the general population. The majority of people should consume a well-balanced diet that includes both carbohydrates (such as pasta, bread, cereals, and potatoes) and proteins (such as meat, fish, cheese, eggs, and milk), as well as a variety of vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables. Although the rest of us might not have quite as good a justification as Bolt for a high-fat binge, there is still room for the occasional indulgence.

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