Track and Field

 In Nutrition
Jennifer DeWall RDN, CSSD, LD

Jennifer works with ICYF to provide expert advice on sports nutrition and healthy eating to the student and families of Indianola. A registered dietitian/nutritionist, Jennifer owns a private practice that focuses on helping athletes stay on the cutting edge with superior nutrition.

View Jennifer's Website

rack and field athletes are required to work at a very high intensity for short durations. Sprinters, jumpers and throwers all use their anaerobic systems (PCr and Anaerobic glycolysis) for the majority of training and competition. These systems rely on your body to generate energy very quickly and require good overall nutrition to execute successfully. Track and field athletes must be able to perform at a high lactate level while focusing on speed, power, technique and flexibility.

Nutrition Recommendations for Track & Field Athletes*

Maintain a healthy weight. It is recommended that track and field athletes* (other than throwers) maintain a percent body fat that allows them to have a high power-to-weight ratio. Despite
popular belief, track and field athletes* do not need as many carbohydrates as other athletes. Carbohydrate intake can be sufficient around 3-4 grams per kilogram of body weight. However, if you need to gain muscle mass for more power, additional carbohydrates may be needed.

In either case, select nutrient dense carbohydrates that offer the most nutrition per calorie.

Carbohydrate choice Better carbohydrate choice
bagel whole-wheat toast, English muffin or flat bread
rice quinoa
100% orange juice orange
Pop – Tart Speciak K breakfast sandwich
Soda/sports drink plain water
candy bar almonds or peanuts
french fries / potato chips baked chips
white pasta Whole grain pasta
crackers Veggies and hummus
Sugary cereal Oatmeal, healthier cereals*

The carbohydrates you consume will benefit you by keeping your energy level high and replacing the muscle glycogen utilized in your resistance training sessions. Resistance training sessions involving high repetitions (8- 12 reps) with moderate loads have been shown to reduce glycogen stores by 20-40%. (1) These types of training sessions are usually done at the beginning of the season when coaches want athletes to build versus maintain muscle.

Refuel after training sessions.
To replace glycogen stores depleted during heavy trainings:

  • Eat something within 30 minutes of an event when
    muscle enzymes are most active.
  • Refuel with carbohydrates and a little bit of protein.

The amount of food to eat post-event will depend on your weight (0.5 – 1.5 grams carbohydrate per kg bodyweight.) and schedule. If you cannot eat a meal within 30 minutes,
consume a snack. Some snack ideas include low-fat chocolate milk, peanut butter sandwich, meal replacement shake, or sports drink with string cheese.

Eat lean protein.
Eat enough protein to build and/or maintain muscle. Lean protein sources include fat free and low fat dairy products, lean meat, beans and eggs. For a more detailed list see the ICYF “Athlete Shopping List.” Track athletes should be consuming at least 1.5 – 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight and no more than 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight each day.

Stay hydrated.
Hydration before, during and after training should be well planned. Drinking large amounts of water in the minutes before a competitive event is not an optimal way to
hydrate. Athletes should sip small amounts of fluid during training and regularly throughout the day.

Weight (pounds) Daily Protein Range (grams)
140 64-120
150 68-130
165 75-150
180 81-160
200 90-180

Hydration Tips:

  • Start hydrating about 4 hours before practice or competitions so that you are able to excrete any excess fluid as urine before you compete.
  • If you are training for 60+ minutes, sip 4-6 ounces of fluid every 15 minutes. A sports drink may be necessary.
  • On days where you are training intensely, for every pound lost, replace with 24 ounces of fluid.
  • Carry a water bottle with you during the day to help achieve your fluid goals. One sip of water is equal to about 1 ounce.

For more information or a personalized plan, work with a registered dietitian/nutritionist that is board certified in sports dietetics.

*Track athletes that regularly run longer distances (3000+ meters) should seek nutrition advice similar to a cross country athlete by visiting the ICYF “Sport-Specific Nutrition: Cross Country” guide.

References1. Burke, Louise. Practical Sports Nutrition. Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL., 2007.
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