Nuts in sports nutrition

13. March 2020

Nuts are small nutritional bombs with great health benefits. They are also ideal for athletes.

Nutrition professionals discuss many controversial topics. But sometimes they are almost all in agreement. Nuts, for example, are among the foods with a practically unanimous positive appraisal. But are they also beneficial in sports?

The Mediterranean diet has a lot of fans. Even in the scientific field you will rarely hear a serious objection to the eating habits in the Mediterranean region. An essential feature of the Mediterranean diet is its fat content, which at around 40 to 45% of total energy is a lot higher than the recommended fat intake of around 30%. But even this doesn’t seem to bother the radical fat opponents. While the high fat content comes primarily from olive oil, nuts also play a part. Researchers first began to take an interest in the Mediterranean diet about 30 years ago. Since around the same time, research was also stepped up on the importance of nuts in terms of health.

The findings obtained so far are consistently positive – if you exclude the allergic reactions to nuts, which affect between 1% and 10% of the population. In total, there are about a dozen good long-term studies with around 350,000 participants on the correlation between the regular consumption of nuts and health. The unambiguous result: the risk of fatal cardiovascular disease was reduced by 40% among those people who ate a handful of nuts each day. Such a large risk reduction is considered remarkable.

Small nutritional bombs

An overly simplistic assessment of nuts is that they are veritable energy and fat bombs (the fat content varies from 50 to 75 grams per 100 grams, depending on the type of nut). Those who only think about calories will tend to remove nuts from their diet due to the fear of gaining weight. However, no weight gain could generally be observed with the regular consumption of nuts. A key reason for this is likely to be the saturation effect. Eating nuts increases satiety during a meal and reduces your appetite afterwards.




Nuts are one of the many examples that show pure calorie counting is often pointless and the general fear of fatty foods unfounded. Despite the high fat content in nuts, the risk of cardiovascular diseases is significantly reduced. The reason for this has not been clearly established, but a great deal points to the high content of secondary plant substances as well as other fat-soluble bioactive substances and dietary fibres. The content of these substances varies from nut to nut. However, it is impossible to create a ranking list. We simply do not know how strong the effects of these various substances are and whether a certain combination of these substances is also required for them to be effective.

Also useful for athletes

Those who are not allergic to nuts can thus incorporate nuts into their regular diet with a very clear conscience. In principle, this also applies to sport. Those who sweat a lot and thus have a high level of salt loss can by all means eat the salty nut variants too. Only those who have trouble eating enough and are at the lower limit of their energy intake should not necessarily consume nuts as a snack. Due to the saturation effect, eating enough could become even more difficult.

If possible, we should buy nuts in their natural, whole form and only chop them before eating, insofar as this is required. If the nuts are already chopped or even grated, the fats can oxidise faster: the nuts become rancid. And the plant substances can then also be affected. Whole nuts have a very good shelf life, even better when chilled. It is therefore not a bad idea to use the fridge to store different kinds of nuts. The recommended amount of nuts is a handful each day, which corresponds to roughly 25 grams. Nuts are extremely versatile: from adding them to muesli, enhancing salads, or as a snack for on the go - almost everything is possible!