Nutrition Tips For Athletes: The 10% Rule

  • By Jené Shaw
  • Published Feb 3, 2011
  • Updated Aug 30, 2011 at 7:12 PM UTC

The 10% rule is a guideline that helps maintain a healthy diet through monitoring calorie intake.

We all know that we should eat foods that are considered “treats” in moderation. Some (ahem, Type A) triathletes struggle to eat anything considered unhealthy, while others could use a little help with portion control. Here’s an easy guideline everyone can follow to help maintain a healthy diet: the 10% rule. The rule comes recommended by registered dietitian Lauren Antonucci, who’s also a certified sports dietitian, 10-time marathoner, 3-time Ironman triathlete and the owner of Nutrition Energy ( in New York City.

“Food should be a source of fuel and enjoyment for all of us,” Antonucci says. “That means preparing yummy looking egg white omelets with veggies, beautiful quinoa with slivered almonds and raisins, turkey burgers made with 97% lean meat—and an occasional treat!”

The 10% rule is simply that. As long as you’re getting all of the good carbs, lean proteins and healthy fats you need to perform and recover, the last 10% of your food and calorie intake should be “just for fun.”

For example, an athlete who needs 2000 calories per day can enjoy 200 calories of treats each day. This might be three (trans fat-free) cookies, two scoops of sorbet or a chocolate bar. Antonucci says, “This is difficult for some triathletes to allow themselves to do, but once you start it adds an enjoyment to your life that you definitely deserve. Just beware not to make it more than 10%!”

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Jené Shaw

Jené Shaw

Jené Shaw is a contributor for Triathlete magazine, a six-time Ironman finisher and a USAT Level 1 certified coach

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