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The 12 Foods All Athletes Must Avoid No Matter What

by | Diet and Nutrition

Apr 22, 2021

Athletes need nutrients and plenty of energy to perform. They need to do all they can to be able to compete. Food is the best source of energy and nutrients for everyone. As an athlete, there are certain foods you must avoid because they can damage your body. Alcohol, sugary cereals, and canned soup may taste well but are bad for you.

Eating these foods will damage your chances of athletic success. Some people have seen their careers go down the drain because they couldn’t control what they eat. Here are 12 foods every athlete must avoid no matter what. 

1. White Bread

For everyone and especially athletes, food is fuel. It helps us generate and maintain certain levels of energy. Whole wheat bread is good because it contains fiber. White bread is one of the foods every athlete must avoid. White bread has been excessively processed, and the fiber content is taken out. 

Tip: Sports professionals should only eat food that increases their nutritional intake. 

2. Alcohol

Hanging out with friends is good for mental health. The only downside is the presence of alcohol. Athletes should be careful about taking too much alcohol. It slows down muscle recovery and can be bad for training. Alcohol slows immune functions and increases the risk of getting an injury. You need every muscle in your body to achieve excellence and performance in all you do. 

Better option: Drinking water is better for athletes who need an alternative. 

3. Granola Bought from the Store

Granola is full of sugar (8 to 12 g per serving) and empty calories and should therefore be considered a dessert. Ingesting a large amount of sugar in the morning can be detrimental to your health. Studies show that increased sugar intake is linked to a higher risk of cancer, diabetes, and obesity

Healthy alternative: make your own granola at home with nutrient-rich ingredients like nuts, seeds, oats, and dried fruits for natural sweetness. Better still, you can leave out granola entirely and go for chia seeds or hemp seeds as a crispy alternative for your yogurt or oatmeal bowl.

4. Sports Drinks

There are several adverts enticing athletes to take sports drinks for enhancement. Some of these drinks work by providing energy. But it’s only useful for those doing a long time physical exercise. Sports drinks contain 34 grams of sugar, making them one of the foods every athlete must avoid. Drinking it every day can slow down the performance of an athlete to a great extent. 

Healthy Alternative: That’s why water remains the best drink for anyone doing physical activities. They can also try out coconut water or tart cherry juice, which are great electrolytes. 

5. Meals Without Protein

Protein is the most important food for athletes. It helps to increase glycogen storage and promote muscle repairs. Athletes experience muscle tears, and they need protein for fast recovery. That’s why an athlete shouldn’t eat any meal without protein. 

Some of the best alternative sources of protein for athletes are eggs, grass-fed beef, and almonds. You can also find recipes for making protein delicacies using wild fish or chickens [1]. Athletes into bodybuilding and muscle building will find whey protein even more useful.

6. Sugary Cereals

Most people eat cereals as breakfast because they are easy to make and cheap. But athletes should avoid them because most of them contain nothing but calories and sugar. Certain manufacturers say their cereal is approved for athletes. If you must try those cereals, make sure you carefully read the instructions on the food label. 

Better still, you should inform your nutritionist or trainer and get some advice. Don’t get pulled into the marketing gimmicks that many companies use to push their products. Your career as an athlete is very important, which means you’re not like everyone else. 

Tip: You need to ensure the cereals you eat don’t damage your chances of higher physical performance. 

7. Canned Soup

Soups are great for athletes. They are an excellent after-workout snack that can help you regain energy. But that’s if you make them from home. Canned soups are convenient, but they’re not good for athletes. Most of them stay very long on the shelve losing all the nutrients. 

Most canned soup products are full of sodium, making it one of the foods every athlete must avoid. Too much consumption can lead to heart diseases, high blood pressure, and stroke. 

Healthy alternative: Homemade soup is a better option because they are fresh. They’re also very delicious and can be taken at any time. 

8. Nutrition Bars

They are very popular in physical training because they offer a quick supply of energy. But nutritional bars are still processed food, so athletes should avoid eating them. Once in a while, snacking on nutritional bars is fine, but eating them every day can become a problem. Most of them are full of sugar and fats that are not healthy for athletes. 

Healthy alternative: Several nutritional snack alternatives are suitable for athletes. Protein shake with banana and veggies are very popular among athletes. 

9. Flavoured Yoghurt

Healthy yogurt, like Greek yogurt, is good for athletes for many reasons. It contains protein for muscle building and calcium for strong bones. Vitamin D in the yogurt also helps in absorbing calcium [2]. For those people having gut issues, yogurt can aid digestion. But flavored yogurt is not good, so it’s one of the foods every athlete must desist from eating. 

Many of them have been over-processed and contain unhealthy preservatives. That’s why they have a very long shelf life making them unsuitable as healthy food. 

10. Pasta

Most of the time, carbs are not the enemy of athletes. The challenge lies in getting carbs with all the nutrients still preserved. Pasta may be good as an occasional meal but not a regular food for athletes. When you’re considering adding nutrients, pasta is not ideal. Most of the nutrients are gone so they can taste better and last longer. 

Healthy alternative: Try quinoa which delivers minerals, antioxidants, enzymes, amino acids, and protein. Quinoa also contains lysine, amino acid, and a building block of protein. It’s perfect for athletes because it promotes the fast healing of an injury. 

11. Soda

Many athletes’ career has gone down because of their soda-drinking habit. Like alcohol, soda damages the body cells and tissues in so many ways. The high sugar content delivers false energy that quickly dissipates. 

Soda also displaces healthy calories and makes you feel weak. Athletes who have a habit of drinking soda will experience low performance. They can reduce immunity, lead to stomach upset, and cause indigestion. 

Soda is among foods every athlete shouldn’t take because it contains artificial sweeteners. When consumed, they trick the brain into thinking they are real food [3]. The body then releases plenty of insulin which leads to more fat storage. Athletes should avoid soda to prevent heart problems and weight gain.

12. Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are harmful to your health. Studies show that sweeteners like sucralose, aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin can stimulate your appetite and lead to food cravings, which in turn, may lead to weight gain possibly even obesity and a deterioration in your intestinal health. [45]

Healthy alternative: Sweeten your food yourself. Use fresh fruit, raw honey, or maple syrup to season your meals naturally and satisfy your cravings for sweets without any additional chemicals or other unhealthy sweeteners.

Photo by Snapwire from Pexels.


  1. NCBI: Dietary protein for athletes: from requirements to optimum adaptation
  2. NCBI: Greek Yogurt and 12 Weeks of Exercise Training on Strength, Muscle Thickness, and Body Composition in Lean, Untrained, University-Aged Males
  3. Harvard School of Public Health: Sugary Drinks
  4. NCBI: Gain weight by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings
  5. NCBI: Fueling the obesity epidemic? Artificially sweetened beverage use and long-term weight gain

By Sara Leandro

Sara Leandro is a certified health coach who helps others feel their best through individualized lifestyle changes that meet their unique needs and health goals. She covers topics ranging from health and productivity to relationships.

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