foods athletes should not eat

Top-performing athletes know that nutrition is king when it comes to gaining an edge over their competitors. However, no matter what your goal is—carving out your six-pack, increasing your stamina—the gateway to success lies on your plate.

An athlete’s diet is more than just calories in and calories out—it’s fuel. The right foods increase your energy, promote muscle growth, and aid in muscle repair.

The wrong ones set you back. When it comes to chowing down, these are the foods a serious athlete won’t touch.

Diet soda

1. Diet Soda

Athletes see each meal as an opportunity to refuel: How much protein can I fit into this meal? How can I add more good fats? It’s what drives performance. Nutritionally void foods like artificial sweeteners have no place in their diet. Not only do they offer no health benefits, but consuming artificially sweetened foods like a can of diet soda per day could significantly increase your risk for health problems and weight gain, according to a Purdue University study. Artificial sweeteners trick the body into thinking you’re consuming real food, and because they’re over 100 times sweeter than the real thing, your body starts producing insulin (the fat storage hormone). You’re better off consuming the real stuff in moderation.

Pouring tin of tomato soup into saucepan

2. Canned Soup

Canned soup might be convenient, but most of the time it’s no healthier for you than other highly processed snacks. The long shelf life should tip you off. “Some soups are so processed and high in sodium that it trumps any health benefits. I would opt for low-sodium or homemade instead,” says Jim White, R.D. The body needs sodium to function properly, but too much can lead to high blood pressure.