4 Common Athlete Nutrition Mistakes

Here are 4 common nutrition mistakes that we hear from our athletes!

  1. Only eating “clean” foods!

Food is simply fuel and we need it to energize our bodies. Remove the emotion behind it. There is no “good” food or “bad” food. A donut is a donut, and a steak is a steak. That being said, not all foods are made the same. Differentiate your foods by their macros, or by nutrient value. Donuts are higher in carbs, while steaks are higher in protein. 

Only eating “clean” foods can lead to a restrictive eating mindset that can cause a greater risk for disordered eating or continuously being in a caloric deficit. Research has shown that within-day energy deficiencies can have a negative impact on athletic performance, and in elite female endurance athletes it can also cause hormonal alterations [1]. 

In some cases, this could turn into Low Energy Availability (LEA), a state in which an individual does not consume enough calories to maintain their basic biological functions [4]. This can be extremely dangerous and lead to even more harmful health consequences including increased injury risk, impaired judgment, and depression [5]. 

If you want to learn more about LEA, we’ve got a whole webinar dedicated to this topic! Find it HERE. We’ve also got a 7 Day LEA Meal Plan that you can find HERE.

  1. Not eating enough carbs!

Carbs are fuel! Consuming carbohydrates before training does help to maintain blood sugar levels and refill glycogen stores. How? Studies show that glycogen stores are used as your body’s main source of energy when exercise intensity increases, however, this fuel is limited, especially during high-intensity aerobic exercise [2]. 

Without enough carbs before and during your training session, your body won’t have the energy necessary to perform at your best. Without enough carbs after your training session, your body will not be able to recover well either. In fact, studies show that if carbs are consumed even just 2 hours after a workout, the rate of muscle glycogen resynthesis is greatly decreased [2].  

Our 4 week Sports Nutrition Education Program (SNEP) is dedicated to educating you about the importance of before, during, and after training nutrition! In this program, you will not only learn why fueling and hydration are so important, but we’ve also included calculators to help you figure out how many carbs and how much water you need to be consuming! Learn more HERE.

  1. Only eating when hungry!

Intuitive eating may work for some individuals, but it is important to consider that your body’s hunger cues may not always be accurate. You can learn more about intuitive eating HERE.

For instance, a study concluded that in elite female endurance athletes, quick  workouts, no matter how intense, could suppress their appetites immediately post exercise [3]. If these athletes followed the protocol of intuitive eating and listened to their body’s hunger cues, they would FAIL to recover nutritionally!


As mentioned above, your body needs carbohydrates post exercise to promote muscle glycogen resynthesis [2]. Similarly, your body needs protein post exercise to help rebuild muscle proteins. Protein acts within a similar window as carbohydrates: muscle protein rebuilding occurs at a faster rate if protein is consumed within 30-60 minutes post exercise. In fact, if protein is consumed 3 hours post exercise, it will NOT help to repair damaged muscle tissues at all [6].  

  1. Training while fasted!

If your goal is to improve performance, then you need to eat before training!

Regardless of your sex, endurance athletes primarily rely on carbohydrates stored within muscle tissue as their fuel source. When you wake up from a night of sleep, you are typically depleted of your glycogen stores by 40-50%! Therefore, it is important to refuel your glycogen levels so that you can perform optimally.

To learn more about this topic, check out our Pre-Workout Nutrition Mini-Course!

You can also read more about fasted training in our blog post HERE.

So, what should you do now?

If you see yourself struggling with any of these common issues, don’t worry! Check out the resources we’ve linked above for more information. If you would like to address your unique concerns, sign up to work 1:1 with one of our practitioners today! You can get started by clicking HERE.


  1. Fahrenholtz, I. L., Sjödin, A., Benardot, D., Tornberg, Å. B., Skouby, S., Faber, J., Sundgot-Borgen, J. K., & Melin, A. K. (2018). Within-day energy deficiency and reproductive function in female endurance athletes. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports28(3), 1139–1146. https://doi.org/10.1111/sms.13030PMID = 28919842
  2. Kerksick, C. M., Arent, S., Schoenfeld, B. J., Stout, J. R., Campbell, B., Wilborn, C. D., Taylor, L., Kalman, D., Smith-Ryan, A. E., Kreider, R. B., Willoughby, D., Arciero, P. J., VanDusseldorp, T. A., Ormsbee, M. J., Wildman, R., Greenwood, M., Ziegenfuss, T. N., Aragon, A. A., & Antonio, J. (2017). International society of sports nutrition position stand: nutrient timing. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition14, 33. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0189-4
  3. Howe, S. M., Hand, T. M., Larson-Meyer, D. E., Austin, K. J., Alexander, B. M., & Manore, M. M. (2016). No Effect of Exercise Intensity on Appetite in Highly-Trained Endurance Women. Nutrients8(4), 223. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu8040223
  4. Porr J. (2012). Clinical Sports Nutrition 4th Ed. The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association56(2), 159.
  5. Editorial BJSM Online First, published on April 20, 2015 as 10.1136/bjsports-2015-094873
  6. Fitzgerald M. Runner’s World Performance Nutrition for Runners, How to Fuel Your Body for Stronger Workouts, Faster Recovery, and YourBest Race Times Ever. Rodale; 2006.
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