Fueling Your Success: Nutrition Tips for High School and College Athletes

“Bodybuilding is at least 80% nutrition.” – Vince Gironda

“Nutrition is 100%, training is 100%, recovery is 100%.” – Dorian Yates

“If you’re not growing, it’s likely your diet, not your training, that’s holding you back.” – Dr. John Berardi

Nutrition is the cornerstone of athletic success, especially for high school and college athletes striving to build muscle, improve performance, and achieve their physique goals. No matter how hard you train, if your diet isn’t on point, you won’t see the results you desire. Let’s dive into the basics of proper nutrition and how you can optimize your diet to reach your full potential.

My Nutrition Journey

When I first got serious about Olympic lifting, I had a major diet flaw: I rewarded myself with fast food after every workout. Despite training hard and taking every supplement I could find, I still looked more like the Michelin Man’s fatter brother than a lean, muscular athlete. My poor dietary habits were holding me back.

I also had a client, a 6’1″ 165-pound hockey player, who struggled to gain muscle despite intense training. After keeping a food diary, we discovered he was only consuming around 1700 calories per day. Once we adjusted his diet, he gained 25 pounds of muscle in less than a year.

The moral of these stories? If you’re training hard but not seeing results, your diet is likely the culprit.

Understanding the Basics

To build muscle or lose fat, you need a solid understanding of nutrition. Let’s break down the key components:


Protein is crucial for muscle growth. It’s broken down into amino acids, which are then used to build muscle through a process called protein synthesis. Aim for 1.25 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily to maximize growth. Good sources include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy.

Carbohydrates (Carbs)

Carbs provide energy for your workouts and daily activities. They are stored as glycogen in your muscles and liver or as body fat. To optimize performance and body composition, consume carbs primarily at breakfast and post-workout when your body is most insulin sensitive. Stick to green veggies and some fruits for most of your carb intake, and avoid high-sugar, processed foods.


Fat is not the enemy! Healthy fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids, are essential for hormone production, including testosterone, which supports muscle growth. Include a variety of fat sources like fish, nuts, seeds, and avocados in your diet. Aim for at least 20% of your total calories from fat to maintain optimal hormone levels.

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

Your BMR is the number of calories your body needs to function at rest. Use the following formulas to estimate your BMR:

  • Men: BMR = 66 + (13.7 x weight in kg) + (5 x height in cm) – (6.8 x age)
  • Women: BMR = 655 + (9.6 x weight in kg) + (1.7 x height in cm) – (4.7 x age)

Multiply your BMR by an activity factor (1.2 for sedentary, up to 2.0 for very high activity) to determine your Daily Energy Expenditure (DEE).

Nutrition Nuggets for Optimal Performance

  1. Measure and Record: Track your food intake to ensure you’re getting the right amount of calories and nutrients.
  2. Follow the 10-20 Rule: For fat loss, consume 10-20% fewer calories than your DEE. For muscle gain, consume 10-20% more.
  3. Carb Timing: Leaner individuals can handle more carbs without gaining fat. Consume most carbs at breakfast and post-workout.
  4. Whole Foods: Stick to natural, unprocessed foods for the best results.
  5. Cheat Meals: Wait 14-21 days before having a cheat meal to establish good eating habits. Cheat meals should be planned and not too frequent.
  6. Don’t Skip Meals: Skipping meals or fasting after a binge can lead to muscle loss and increased fat storage.
  7. Variety: Rotate your food choices to avoid developing intolerances and to ensure a balanced intake of nutrients.
  8. Frequent Meals: Eat small, frequent meals to stabilize blood sugar levels and improve nutrient absorption.
  9. Protein at Every Meal: Include protein in every meal to support muscle growth.
  10. Breakfast Matters: Never skip breakfast—it sets the tone for the rest of the day and helps prevent muscle breakdown.
  11. Post-Workout Nutrition: Have a protein and carb-rich shake immediately after training to kickstart recovery.

Diet Strategies for Different Goals

For Fat Loss

  • Low-Carb: High protein, high fat, minimal carbs (under 30 grams per day).
  • Low-Fat: High protein, high carb, minimal fat.
  • Balanced: Equal focus on protein, carbs, and fats, but avoid mixing fats and carbs in the same meal.

For Muscle Gain

  • Low-Carb: High protein, high fat, minimal carbs.
  • Low-Fat: High protein, high carb, minimal fat.
  • Balanced: Equal focus on protein, carbs, and fats, with protein + carb or protein + fat meals.


Training is essential, but nutrition is the game-changer that will determine your success. It requires discipline and dedication, but the rewards are well worth the effort. By following these guidelines and staying committed to your nutrition plan, you’ll see significant improvements in your physique and performance.

Stay strong, Hardbody Athletes, and remember: the kitchen is where champions are made.