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Nutrition | Gymnastics

Nutrition Tips for Gymnasts: Fueling Performance and Health

December 1st, 2023 | 4 min. read

Nutrition Tips for Gymnasts: Fueling Performance and Health
Kayla Brook

Kayla Brook

Licensed Physical Therapist, PT, DPT // Dry Needling Certified // Orthopedic Certified Specialist // EW Motion Therapy Homewood

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Gymnastics, a sport known for its rigorous physical demands, requires more than just skill and training. Proper nutrition is pivotal in a gymnast's performance and overall health. Just as a car needs the right fuel to run efficiently, gymnasts need the proper nutrients to perform at their best. We love helping our gymnasts at EW Motion Therapy improve performance through customized plans and sport-specific exercises. But even if you decide that our physical therapy doesn’t fit your needs, you can still read on to learn the primary focus areas for gymnastics nutrition and how professionals can help gymnasts achieve their dietary goals.


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Macronutrients: the foundation of a gymnast's diet


Carbohydrates: the primary energy source

Carbohydrates are essential for gymnasts as they provide the primary source of energy. Complex carbohydrates in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables should be a staple in a gymnast's diet. They offer sustained energy, crucial for long training sessions and competitions.


Protein: building and repairing muscles

Protein is critical for muscle repair and growth. Gymnasts should include a variety of protein sources in their diet, such as lean meats, fish, dairy, and plant-based options like beans and lentils. Consuming protein after training sessions aids in muscle recovery, preparing the body for the next workout.


Fats: supporting overall health

Fats are often misunderstood but essential for overall health, especially for gymnasts. Healthy fats, like those found in avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil, support cell growth and provide energy. They also help absorb fat-soluble vitamins crucial for a gymnast's health.


Hydration: keeping the body functioning optimally

Staying hydrated is paramount for gymnasts. Water regulates body temperature, lubricates joints, and helps transport nutrients for energy and health. Gymnasts should drink water throughout the day, especially before, during, and after training, to ensure optimal performance and recovery.


Timing your meals

Any athlete needs to time their meals with training to optimize the benefits. Eat too soon before a workout, and you might be uncomfortable, but not eating at all will not fuel you for the activity. Here are some tips for gymnasts to remember.


  1. Pre-training nutrition: A balanced meal or snack before training can provide the energy needed for a gymnastics session. This meal should be rich in carbohydrates and moderate in protein and fat.
  2. Post-training nutrition: After training, it's crucial to refuel. A meal or snack high in protein and carbohydrates helps repair muscles and replenish energy stores. You should eat this meal 45 minutes to an hour after training for optimal recovery.


Micronutrients: the supporting details


Vitamins and minerals

Vitamins and minerals are vital for energy production, bone health, and immune function. Gymnasts should focus on getting a variety of micronutrients through a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Pay attention to calcium and iron, especially in female gymnasts, to support bone health and energy levels.


Many athletes consider supplements to help improve performance or get concentrated nutrients. While supplements can help meet nutritional needs, you should use them cautiously and ideally under the guidance of a healthcare professional. Whole foods are always the preferred source of nutrients. Do your research and get professional advice to find the best supplements for your needs and goals.


Seeking professional guidance: dietitians and nutritionists


Getting professional diet advice can be beneficial. Sports dietitians specialize in designing nutrition plans that support athletic performance. They can provide personalized advice based on a gymnast’s needs, training schedule, and dietary preferences. Nutritionists educate gymnasts about the importance of balanced eating. They can offer guidance on meal planning, healthy eating habits, and strategies to ensure gymnasts receive all the nutrients from their diet. Nutritionists and dietitians are professionals with different skill sets, so ensure you understand the differences before choosing a professional.


Nutrition is a crucial aspect of a gymnast's training and overall well-being. By focusing on a balanced diet, staying hydrated, timing meals appropriately, and seeking guidance from nutrition professionals, gymnasts can ensure they have the fuel for training and competition. Remember, a well-nourished gymnast is capable of achieving their full potential. This is the kind of athlete we nourish through our training and physical therapy programs at EW Motion Therapy, and we consider it a privilege to help each of our gymnasts work toward their goals. If you’re curious about what else physical therapy can do for your gymnastics career, click the button below to download our answers to 20 frequently asked questions.


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