Physical Education


At the risk of sounding like your mum, a balanced diet really is essential for good health. There are seven building blocks for a healthy diet, including carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and fibre. Add water to the mix and you’re shaping up nicely!

We take energy from food in the form of kilojoules. How much energy you need depends on your body type and the amount of physical activity you do. How you use or store energy influences your weight, shape and sporting performance.


We all need to eat a balanced diet to maintain good health. It is vital that athletes have all the nutrients they need to help them perform at their best.

There are 7 components (food types) in a balanced diet:


Food typeHow does it help? When do we need it in sport?Where do we get it?


Provides quick energy. 60% of our diet should comprise 'carbs'.Running. Athletes in training will eat more 'carbs'. Marathon runners will 'load [Carbo loading: Building up stores of fuel in the muscles by resting and eating lots of pasta etc for three days prior to a marathon or other endurance event. ]' before the event.Pasta, cereals and potatoes

NB Unsaturated fats are healthy. Too much saturated fat from animal products can lead to heart disease.


Provides slow energy. 25% of our diet should be fat.Walking and low impact exercise - it produces energy too slowly to be used when working hard.Oils, dairy products, nuts and fish


Builds and repairs muscle. We only need 15% of our diet to be protein.When training hard and recovering from injury. ‘Power’ athletes such as weight lifters will eat more protein.Meat, pulses and fish



A - for vision

B - for energy production and stress reduction

C - to keep skin healthy

D - to help bones and teeth

Helps the body work. Helps concentration.Staying calm, making quick decisionsFresh fruit and vegetables



Calcium - to strengthen bones

Iodine - for energy production

Iron - prevents fatigue

Helps release energy from food. Helps decision makingWhen training hard and competing Fruit, vegetables and fish

Breakfast cereal

Can't be digested. Fills you up and keeps you 'regular'Healthy digestion, (no constipation) helps in sport. Also helps with weight control.Fresh fruit, vegetables and wholegrain cereals

A glass of water

Maintains fluid levelsWhenever you sweat. It prevents dehydrationThe tap! It's all you need most of the time.

Energy requirements

The energy the body takes from food is measured kilojoules or kilocalories.You need enough energy to meet the demands of your BMR and PAL.

BMR stands for Basic Metabolic Rate; the number of kilojoules you use to stay alive each day.

PAL stands for Physical Activity Level; the number of kilojoules you use to fuel all of your physical activity.

BMR + PAL = your daily energy requirement.

Big people need more energy for BMR. Athletes in endurance events and hard training need more energy for PAL.

British heptathlete Jessica Ennis attempts the high jump

Photo courtesy of BBC Sport

Boxer Robbie Reid

A heptathlete and a boxer will have different energy requirements

If you consume [Consume: To eat and drink. ] more energy than you use you will put on weight. If you consume less energy than you use you will lose weight.

People who under-eat will not have enough energy to perform effectively.

Being overweight may not be a problem. It may be due to a person having a lot of muscle, rugby players for example, so it's not always harmful. However, people who are overfat [Overfat : Having excessive amounts of body fat. ] or obese [Obese : The official term for being very over-fat. Being obese is dangerous to health. ] will not be effective sportspeople.

Body types

There are 3 basic somatotypes (body types). Everyone tends towards one although few people are totally one or another.

Your body type, shape and composition will determine how effective you are at sport.

A weight lifter

Endmorphs are well suited to weighlifting

  • Ectomorphs - narrow-shaped body, are thin faced, with little fat or muscle. This is the ideal body type for long-distance runners.
  • Mesomorphs - wedge-shaped body, wide shoulders, narrow hips, muscular. Ideal body type for sprinters.
  • Endomorphs - pear-shaped body, wide hips, wide shoulders, can have a lot fat on body, arms and thighs. When fit, ideal body type for weightlifting, wrestling.

A person's ideal body weight depends on their body type, age, gender, height, the size of their bones, and their muscle size. These factors also affect their participation and performance in sport.

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