This study evaluated the diet of 615 professional athletes (PA) (306 males and 309 females; 21.3±5.5 years) compared with 312 age-matched non-athletes (NA), who participated in the 3
Hungarian National Dietary Survey in 2003. Dietary intake was assessed based on 3-day food record. In males, daily energy intake was 3513±1143 kcal and 2965±551 kcal for PA and NA, respectively (P<0.001). In females, there were no significant differences between PA and NA concerning the intake of energy. Athletes reported insufficient energy intake in both genders. Similarly to NA, PA failed to meet the adequate rate for macronutrients. Energy intake from carbohydrates was lower (47.3±6.6% in male and 49.2±7.3% in female) and from lipids higher (36.8±6% in male and 35.2±6.7% in female) than recommended. Athletes reported higher intakes of vitamins C and E, potassium and calcium than NA. Sodium and cholesterol intake was highly above the RDA in every group. Surprisingly, sodium intake of NA was even higher than PA in females (5535±1282 mg/day vs. 5068±2028 mg/day; P<0.05). In addition, iron intake of women was less than two-third of RDA in both groups. In summary, the dietary habits of elite athletes showed many misconceptions and lack of proper nutrition in terms of quality. These findings point out the need for adequate education of athletes and trainers to provide optimal food choice and for continuous monitoring of dietary pattern to maximize exercise performance and improve recovery.