Your diet and the type of food you consume can affect your athletic performance either positively or negatively.

The diet of an athlete or someone who exercises regularly needs to be different from the diet of someone who is inactive or sedentary. Athletes need to keep energy levels up to make workouts most effective.

The type of diet you need depends on your age, sex and activity level. Our sports nutritionists provide one-on-one athletic sports nutrition counseling to help you with various issues including:

  • Gaining lean mass
  • Improving high intensity sport performance
  • Losing fat
  • Eating for muscle recovery
  • Optimizing the carbohydrates and protein for your body type and goals
  • Understanding energy balance
  • Strategizing for endurance fueling

Our Services

Every athlete has unique metabolic needs and goals.

We provide comprehensive testing, counseling and nutrition programming to help maximize each individual’s performance. Check with your insurance provider to determine your plan's coverage of Nutritional Services visits. 

Nutrition Counseling

These one-on-one consultations help athletes evaluate their diet and consider a meal plan tailored to their sport, season and goals. It's designed to help you prepare and recover from training and activity by teaching you how and when to fuel the body.

Additionally, if you have very specific nutrition concerns, such as weight management, nutritional performance enhancement, disordered eating, amenorrhea or osteoporosis, this counseling is a great fit. All participants leave with a personalized nutrition plan.

Group Speaking Engagements

Our experts participate in community fitness events and group presentations on various wellness and nutrition topics, which can be tailored to your specific needs. Examples include Proper Portion Sizes, Understanding Fats and Sugars, and Healthy Eating for Athletic Performance

iDXA Scan

Using low-dose radiation to see “through” your body, the iDXA scan measures bone mass, lean tissue mass and fat mass, providing an invaluable assessment of your body composition. Note: An iDXA scan requires a physician prescription.

Grocery Store Tours

We’ll meet your small group at the grocery store, answer your food and nutrition questions and explain how to read labels, integrate new ingredients into your diet and make better overall shopping and meal-planning choices.

Resting Metabolic Rate

Our KORR Indirect Calorimeter can estimate your resting calorie burn. The test is performed early in the day, under fasting and no-stimulants conditions for the most accurate results.

Considerations for Athletes

Nutrition and diet considerations for athletes

Our specialists can help you eat your way to better health and performance.

You need to eat enough to fuel the muscles through the mileage you are planning to complete. Eating too much food may lead to unwanted weight gain. Many endurance athletes see their training as a way to control body weight, but there are many potentially unwanted side effects of poor fueling as well. These may include feeling tired during training runs, inability to concentrate, feeling lethargic when not training, getting sick more easily and not storing enough fuel in the muscle to perform and practice at your best.


Eating a small meal every two to four hours will likely help you feel better throughout the day than eating two or three large meals. For athletes using their training as weight control, it's a common temptation to skimp on calories throughout the day by skipping meals or snacks. Giving your body a little energy every two to four hours will help you maximize performance. Eat a good breakfast, have a mid-morning snack, eat a light lunch, enjoy an afternoon pick-me-up and eat a reasonable dinner.

On average, your body needs an extra 100 calories for each mile you are running or exercising at a high intensity to stay in energy balance.

Gender Differences

The female athlete triad, now referred to as relative energy deficiency (RED), is usually caused by inadequate fueling that leads to hormone imbalance and ultimately bone mass loss. Our iDXA scan analyzes bone mass and an appropriate nutritional protocol can be formulated for triad patients. Women who exercise often become very frustrated and cannot lose weight due to underfueling. Let us help you estimate the right diet to help you achieve your goals.

Male athletes sometimes have no idea how much energy their bodies need. Our energy needs estimates include likely metabolic rate, activity level and time spent in exercise.

In addition to our work with male and female runners, our sports nutrition laboratory is also engaged in other gender-specific issues such as the ferritin values in female swimmers and their impact on aerobic performance, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and metabolic syndrome in male athletes.


In general,younger runners need more calories than older runners. Males need more calories than females.  Larger body sizes need more calories than smaller bodies, and increased activity throughout the day increases caloric needs more than an office job would.

You might consider your plate proportions to be one quarter whole grain breads/pastas, one half fruits/vegetables and one quarter meat/protein source. Try to include at least four food groups in each meal to know you are getting a good variety. Having some protein in each snack is also good support for the muscles.

Carbohydrates can be ingested from foods less heavy than pasta dinners. Fruits provide a great source of carbohydrates as well as essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants, each of which contribute to maintaining good health.


In general, if you are active for less than an hour, drinking water to hydrate is fine. For sustained activities longer than an hour or 90 minutes, some sports drinks can support your performance. Because carbohydrate is the muscle’s preferred fuel, when you add a little carbohydrate to the tank as you exercise, it can support a higher intensity of exercise. When you sweat a lot, you are losing electrolytes, and a sports drink can help replenish them to help you maintain a better level of hydration.

Why Ohio State?

Why choose The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center for sports nutrition?

Customized care: We employ a targeted nutritional approach to each individual. Our registered dietitians focus on safe, effective, evidence-based nutrition services for health, fitness and athletic performance on an individual-by-individual basis.

Nationally certified: Our sports nutrition team is led by a board-certified specialist in sports dietetics who's qualified to deliver medical nutrition therapy.

Experience: We provide nutrition consultation for more than 5,000 central Ohio competitors and performers, including Ohio State’s athletes and varsity teams.

A closer look at Sports Nutrition

Nutrition and Sports Performance

Good nutrition is an important aspect to athletic training. There's no substitute or supplement for a balanced diet, as Kacie Vavrek, MS, RN, LD, explains.

Body Composition Testing

Jackie Buell PhD, RD, ATC, describes how the assessment of skeletal health through measurement of bone mass, lean tissue mass and fatty tissue mass has strong preventative health implications, particularly for women.

Athletes and Eating Disorders

Dr. Jen Carter shares how sports present both risks and protective factors for eating disorders, from the pressure to fit into a certain body type for a given sport to the benefit of having a great social network associated with being part of a team.

Our Sports Nutritionists