Nutrition for Competition

Oct 27, 2023

Albany, Ga. (October 24, 2023) – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, staying physically active is one of the best things to do for overall health and wellness. For student athletes, weekend warriors and those who exercise regularly, having a consistent training program or workout routine is important. And, to maintain strength and energy before, during and after exertion, it’s key to select foods that fuel the body.

“Carbs, protein and fat are three macronutrients that can help everyone improve their physical condition and stamina,” says Dr. Samara Sterling, a nutrition scientist and research director for The Peanut Institute. “To truly maximize the benefits of healthy foods, it’s essential to know what to eat and when to eat.”

Carbs for Energy

Carbs are critical since the body breaks them down quickly and efficiently and draws on them for energy. A diet rich in carbs increases high-intensity and endurance performance because they are stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen. When an athlete needs a quick boost of energy, glycogen is converted into glucose and delivered through the bloodstream to the body’s cells for use as fuel.

Protein for Muscles

Protein is primarily used by the body to maintain, repair and grow muscle tissue, which makes it imperative for proper recovery after a workout or competitive event. Protein also transports vitamins, minerals and oxygen, ensuring the body is supplied with the energy it needs.

Fats for Endurance

Heart-healthy monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats provide an energy source for lower intensity exercise and aid in the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K. While carbs provide energy for quick bursts, healthy fats support endurance.

Peanut Power

When considering what to eat, peanuts, peanut butter and peanut powder fit the bill for nutrition for competition.

A single serving of peanuts is about 35 nuts and delivers approximately five grams of carbs, seven grams of plant protein (more than any other nut) and 14 grams of monosaturated fats. A serving of peanut butter is two tablespoons and provides seven grams of carbs, eight grams of protein and 16 grams of fat.

Peanuts and peanut butter are often tapped by athletes, strength and conditioning coaches and those who work out regularly since they’re packed with both macro and micronutrients that deliver a plethora of body and brain benefits,” says Sterling. “They’re also tasty, low cost, portable and easy to incorporate into a meal or have alone as a snack.”

The Power of Timing

With optimal performance in mind, there are key times to fuel up. 

One to two hours before training have a small-to-medium-sized meal of protein and complex carbs. This can help maintain, increase and protect muscles, while providing the energy needed to sustain a complete workout.

A light meal or snack, like a smoothie or fruit slices, can be consumed about 30 minutes before a workout. Peanut powder, which contains about 40-50% protein, can easily be added to a pre- or post-workout smoothie and has been shown to increase markers of muscle strength and growth.1

Following a workout, take advantage of a revved-up metabolism that’s efficiently burning calories. For those who are strength training, eat up to 2 hours after. For cardio training, eat up to 30 minutes after. A snack that’s quick and easy to put together is whole wheat toast topped with a tablespoon of peanut butter and banana slices.

“Whether you’re on the field or in the classroom, it’s imperative to give your body and mind the right kind of foods at the right time to stay on top of your game at any age,” says Sterling.

For healthy recipes, tips and studies that support physical and mental performance, visit or follow The Peanut Institute on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

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Based in Albany, Ga., The Peanut Institute is a non-profit organization supporting nutrition research and developing educational programs to encourage healthful lifestyles that include peanuts and peanut products. The Peanut Institute pursues its mission through research programs, educational initiatives and the promotion of healthful lifestyles to consumers of all ages. As an independent forum, The Peanut Institute is uniquely positioned to work with all segments of the food industry, the research community, academia, consumer organizations and governmental institutions.

  1. Lamb DA, Moore JH, Smith MA, Vann CG, Osburn SC, Ruple BA, Fox CD, Smith KS, Altonji OM, Power ZM, Cerovsky AE, Ross CO, Cao AT, Goodlett MD, Huggins KW, Fruge AD, Young KC, Roberts MD. The effects of resistance training with or without peanut protein supplementation on skeletal muscle and strength adaptations in older individuals. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2020 Dec 14;17(1):66. doi: 10.1186/s12970-020-00397-y. PMID: 33317565; PMCID: PMC7734909.