Due to Covid19, also athletes – who often run out of time to cook meals – have more time now for cooking. Some may use the time to try new recipes. In some kitchens, you might still find the good old cookbook, others prefer the internet over hard-copy cookbooks and browse blogs for interesting ideas. But be careful!

Many blogs and posts with catchy titles of healthy, tasty menus for athletes include energy dense recipes. Athlete’s cooking sites promote recipes but many just play with key words of current dietary trends: vegan, vegetarian, natural, regional, local, seasonal, superfoods, low sugar. And add a nice image that makes the recipe seem even more healthy.

The food industry has used certain tactics for years to convince consumers to buy their products. Specific product labeling and packaging, and catchy product names have been a successful strategy to increase sales numbers.

Athletes a group of high interest

For companies and bloggers, athletes are a very important group of consumers. They want to eat healthy and high quality. They want the best for their body and many pay more attention to food than the general population. Athletes want to maximise their performance and a healthy, high quality diet helps them achieve this goal.

Clearly, a recipe that’s promoted as healthy isn’t enough. In order to meet the needs, we need the recipe nutrition information. Note, healthy ingredients can be energy dense also. Adding nuts, seeds, oil, avocado or coconut to your foods for example can easily increase the calorie content of an apparently low-calorie  meal to serveral hundred calories. Yes, healthy foods contain energy. And sometimes you’ll be surprised what the nutrient composition of recipes looks like when you run an analysis.

What to look for in a recipe

A recipe should at least list the energy content (kcal), macronutrient composition and sodium content. Distribution of fats and concentration of other micronutrients is welcome, for example fibre or iron and calcium, two important nutrients for athletes. With the given macronutrient distribution athletes can plan their meals based on different training loads. Remember: the portion needs to be right. A recipe should be of high quality, but especially for athletes, it should also contain the necessary carbohydrates (fuel) for intense and/or long workouts.