5 Pro Athletes' Nutrition Tips - And Whether You Should Take Them Seriously

It’s natural, to some extent, to take a professional athlete’s advice seriously when it comes to health and nutrition. We look up to such figures, sometimes almost to the point of idolizing them, and they excel at what they do, at least in part, because they’re remarkably fit. Thus, we often can’t help hearing fitness tips or health tricks from them and assuming they’re spot on.

As much as this makes a certain sense though, it’s also important to remember all of the conditions professional athletes are operating under that most ordinary people aren’t. For instance, an athlete might have a certain plan for protein and carb consumption, but might also be working out and practicing a sport some six or seven hours each day. Another athlete might have a six-meal-a-day program he or she credits with optimal health - but there might also be a nutrition expert or personal chef planning or preparing those meals.

In other words, we shouldn’t necessarily take pro athletes’ nutrition tips as perfect advice. However, that doesn’t mean some of them aren’t worth considering, which is what we’re doing with five examples below.

1. Roger Federer - Have Some Ice Cream Now And Then

We’ll start with exactly the sort of pro athlete nutritional tidbit that might give you pause. Roger Federer is considered by many to be the single greatest tennis player of all time, and is more remarkable with each passing year as he manages to keep winning at what is, for tennis, an advanced age. Federer is 38 now - once borderline ancient for an active professional tennis player - and he’s pursuing Olympic gold next summer. Clearly, there’s a lot to be said for the devotion to health and fitness that has gotten him to this point.

Among the details he’s revealed about his nutrition routine though is Federer’s devotion to ice cream treats on a regular basis. While he certainly doesn’t claim that ice cream specifically helps his health, he appears to subscribe to the theory that the occasional sweet treat is part of overall balance. There’s some debate over this point, and some would simply suggest that even if sweets in moderation aren’t harmful, they don’t need to be on the men. However, some nutrition experts also suggest that paired with portion control (100-200 calories’ worth), a sweet treat can certainly fit into a balanced diet. The actual benefit, to the extent there is one, is psychological, in that you allow yourself to eat something you really want even if you’re making sacrifices elsewhere.

2. Venus Williams - Go Vegan To Address Sjogren’s

We want to be careful here not to suggest that Venus Williams has claimed to have any kind of cure for Sjogren’s syndrome. She has said no such thing. However, she has been open about having salvaged her career with her diet. Some years back, Williams faced serious health concerns that rendered her unable to play or practice tennis - when she had been one of the top players on Earth. However, following a Sjogren’s diagnosis, Williams switched to a vegan diet and worked her way back onto the women’s tour, where she is again among the world’s best 20 or so players.

Again, a vegan diet is not being suggested as a full cure for Sjogren’s or any other autoimmune condition. However, per Healthline, there is at least loosely something to Williams’s plan. Recommended foods to avoid (red meat, processed foods, dairy, and gluten, among others) and foods to eat (leafy greens, whole grains, and nuts) do overlap somewhat with a vegan diet - though there are also some exceptions, such as the recommendation to work fish into a diet.

3. Tom Brady - Avoid Acidic Food To Regulate Your pH Levels

Not unlike Roger Federer, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is one of the greatest in his sport’s history who’s enjoying a sort of second wave of fame as an ageless wonder. Brady is 42 years old, and the best of America’s sportsbooks are in universal agreement that he’s likely to lead his Patriots to another Super Bowl championship. Whether or not this ends up happening, for a quarterback Brady’s age to even be given such odds in the first place speaks to his enduring prowess - which is of course tied to his nutrition.

Brady is actually very public about his nutrition routine, to the point that he’s turned it into something of a side business. However, while he undeniably has an overall healthy approach, some of his specific claims are dubious. Brady speaks about avoiding acidic foods on the grounds that doing so can help to regulate the body’s pH levels, leading to optimal performance. Now, the specific foods Brady avoids and focuses on can certainly comprise a healthy diet. However, an in-depth look by Vox citing nutritional experts clarified that there is little to no scientific evidence that we can control pH levels via nutrition. In other words, eating like Brady isn’t necessarily a bad idea - but doing it for his stated reasons is likely fruitless.

4. Gabby Douglas - Enjoy Salmon For Dinner

Gabby Douglas is likely finished, or close to it, with her career as a professional athlete. However, many will undoubtedly remember her as a star of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team - something of an Olympic darling in 2012, and a veteran team leader by 2016. Gymnasts are among those athletes with fitness and nutrition routines that seem almost entirely foreign to ordinary people, because the level of caloric intake needed to fuel the amount of exercise is, under more regular circumstances, outlandish. However, they’re also some of the fittest people in the world, and so are at least worth exploring for inspiration.

Douglas has made it sound on multiple occasions as if her own nutrition routine is fairly simple (even suggesting in her younger days that she simply ate whatever her mother made her). But she’s also joined many other top athletes in making it clear that salmon is one of if not the primary proteins in her diet. Why athletes land specifically on salmon so often is slightly unclear, but Heart.org does include salmon among recommended healthy, lean proteins, on the grounds of its Omega-3 fatty acid content (nobody tell Tom Brady!).

5. Cristiano Ronaldo - Have Six Small Meals A Day

Cristiano Ronaldo has been one of the best soccer players in the world for quite a while now - long enough in fact that he’s entered the conversation for greatest in history. He, too, is remarkably effective for his age, and is specifically known for consistently displaying a nearly otherworldly physique. And among his nutritional tricks - as seems to be the case for a fair number of top athletes - is the habit of having six or so small meals a day, rather than two or three traditional meals.

This is sometimes recommended as a means of keeping one’s metabolic rate up, and thereby burning more calories over the course of the day. And there may be some merit to that notion when you train as much as a top athlete, and thus need more regular “fuel.” However, for an everyday nutritional routine, this frequent-small-meal routine has been referred to as a persistent myth. It doesn’t necessarily hurt, but the simple truth is that the total amount of food one eats determines how many calories are burned in the digestive process - not how often one is eating.

HealthPrep Staff