Eating Intuitively for Athletes | How To Guide

Jul 04, 2024

Are you or your athletes ready to learn how to stop counting calories and macros, at least for a period of time? If so, this article is for you. 

Introduction to Intuitive Eating for Athletes

At some point in their journey, athletes can experience burnout from meticulously tracking their nutrition and counting macronutrients. This often occurs after years of disciplined tracking, where the mental load becomes overwhelming. Intuitive eating can provide a refreshing break, particularly during phases aimed at maintaining physique and performance. However, it might not be the best approach during intentional bulking or cutting phases.

Educating Athletes on Intuitive Eating

As coaches, it is crucial to educate athletes on the purpose and benefits of intuitive eating. This approach can offer significant mental relief and free up time for other important activities. The transition can be smoother for athletes who have previously tracked their intake, as they can rely on their learned habits.

The key to successful intuitive eating is to consistently apply the principles learned during tracking, such as building balanced plates most of the time with proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and fibers, maintaining regular meal timings every 3-4 hours, and choosing mostly whole foods to help with satiety and obtain essential micronutrients.

Steps to Transition to Intuitive Eating

To help athletes transition, consider gradually reducing the number of meals they track each day. For instance, start by eliminating the tracking of the most consistent meal, like breakfast. In the following weeks, reduce tracking further as the athlete maintains their body weight and performance.

Eventually, the athlete will track nothing related to their nutrition yet maintain progress easily. During this phase, coaches should encourage athletes to listen to their hunger and fullness cues, which they might have ignored while focusing on numbers.

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Athletes might make several common mistakes when transitioning to intuitive eating:

  • Eliminating all tracking: While reducing nutrition tracking, athletes should still monitor other aspects like body weight and hydration.
  • Ignoring useful data: Keeping track of training intensity, cardio minutes, heart rate, and daily steps can provide valuable insights into how the body responds to intuitive eating.
  • Forgetting the future: Athletes should understand that there might be times when they need to return to tracking for specific goals like fat loss or muscle gain.

Summary and Actionable Takeaways

In summary, intuitive eating can be a valuable tool for athletes to maintain their physique and performance without the mental strain of constant tracking. Here are some actionable takeaways for coaches:

  • Gradually reduce the number of tracked meals to ease the transition.
  • Reinforce the importance of listening to hunger and fullness cues.
  • Continue monitoring body weight and hydration levels.
  • Set clear start and end dates for intuitive eating phases to measure outcomes.

By following these steps, coaches can help athletes find a healthy balance between structured tracking and intuitive eating, promoting both physical performance and mental well-being.


Nutrition Support Available

Our Hybrid Athlete Team, available on the Train Heroic app, is a great place to get support with your nutrition & training, no matter what season you're in or goals you have. Backed by our over 10 years of training experience, we can help you reach your goals and become even more athletic. You can get more info or join our Hybrid Athlete Team here.

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