Eating for Performance, Health, and Aesthetics: Understanding the Differences and Importance of Each Approach

The relationship between nutrition and physical activity is critical for optimal health and performance. Eating for performance, health, and aesthetics are different approaches to nutrition, each with distinct goals and approaches.

Eating for performance aims to provide the body with the fuel and nutrients needed to perform at its best during physical activity. This often involves consuming a higher proportion of carbohydrates, which are the body's preferred source of energy during exercise. Evidence has shown that a high-carbohydrate diet can enhance endurance performance and delay fatigue (1). However, adequate protein consumption is also important for muscle growth and repair, particularly for athletes who engage in frequent or high-intensity training sessions. Research has shown that consuming protein before or after exercise can help enhance muscle recovery and growth (2). Nutrient timing, quality, and quantity are essential factors to consider when developing a nutrition plan for optimal performance.

When it comes to eating for health, the focus is on providing the body with the nutrients it needs to maintain optimal health and prevent chronic disease. Consuming whole, minimally processed foods that are rich in nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and fiber is the foundation of a healthy diet. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer (3). Conversely, diets high in processed and ultra-processed foods have been linked to an increased risk of chronic disease (4). Nutrient-dense foods are a key component of a healthy diet.

On the other hand, eating for aesthetics focuses on achieving a specific physical appearance, typically through bodybuilding, modeling, or other types of fitness competitions. This often involves manipulating macronutrient intake, particularly by increasing protein and decreasing carbohydrates, to achieve a desired level of leanness or muscularity. While this approach may be effective in achieving a certain body composition, it's important to note that it may not necessarily be the healthiest approach for everyone. Extreme dieting and weight loss can have negative health consequences, such as increased risk of gallstones and nutrient deficiencies (5).

While there may be some overlap between these types of eating, the primary goals and approaches are different. Eating for performance prioritizes fueling the body for physical activity, while eating for health prioritizes nutrient-dense foods to maintain optimal health and prevent disease. Eating for aesthetics prioritizes achieving a specific body composition or physical appearance, which may not always align with optimal health. It's important to choose a nutritional approach that aligns with your own personal goals and values, while also prioritizing overall health and well-being.

Donna M., Cert. Performance Nutrition Coach / Exercise Physiologist 


  1. Burke LM. Carbohydrates for training and competition. Journal of Sports Sciences. 2011;29(sup1):S17-S27.
  2. Phillips SM. Nutrient-rich meat proteins in offsetting age-related muscle loss. Meat science. 2012;92(3):174-178.
  3. Satija A, Bhupathiraju SN, Rimm EB, Spiegelman D, Chiuve SE, Borgi L, et al. Plant-based diets and the risk of coronary heart disease in US adults. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2017;70(4):411-422.
  4. Monteiro CA, Cannon G, Moubarac J-C, Levy RB, Louzada ML, Jaime PC. The UN Decade of Nutrition, the NOVA food classification and the trouble with ultra-processing. Public health nutrition. 2018;21(1):5-17.
  5. Yeo TP, Sawyer MB, Horowitz JD. Nausea and vomiting after cholecystectomy: a review of mechanisms and management. Australian and New Zealand journal of surgery. 2000;70(11):812-819.

1 comment

  • Do you have any consultation appointments on March 27?

    Serena Broussard

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