Nutrition Nugget
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Nutrition Nugget

Nutrition Nugget

From the desk of our Registered Dietitian:

Eating for the Student Athlete

Many student athletes may be tempted to buy in to the supplement bandwagon. There are so many promises out there – lose weight, get cut, and improve your performance! While SOME of the claims MIGHT be true, they are expensive and some have been found to have contaminates in them that impede performance.  
There is good news! Eating to reach your peak performance level likely doesn’t require a special diet or supplements – but you do need to work the right foods into your fitness plan in the right amounts! Eat enough, but not too much.
The first step in eating for the student athlete (or anyone) is to establish a healthy eating pattern. There is no “one and only” healthy eating style. Between Low-Carb, Low-Fat, Paleo, Mediterranean, and a host of other diets, there has been a lot of confusion. Instead of going through a bunch of different eating styles, let’s just start with some healthy habits:
  • Cut out mindless snacking.  
  • Eat breakfast – if you aren’t hungry in the morning, at least drink some water. Teenagers tend to want to sleep in, and establishing wakeup routine including a breakfast can help.
  • Don’t avoid fats! Fats are satiating, meaning they will help you feel full longer, and you can avoid the mid-afternoon slump and not be so tempted to eat snacks!
  • Protein – it’s necessary, but you only need so much! Most students get enough protein in their diets – however, follow a restrictive diet can affect this. Muscle growth is a result of regular training and hard work, not from overeating protein!
  • Carbohydrates – it’s where you get the fuel to do all that hard work! Best sources are from fruits, vegetables, and grains.
  • Calcium – you need this for strong bones, and it also helps avoid muscle spasms (or Charlie horses-ouch). Available in dairy products and calcium fortified foods, like orange juice with calcium.
  • Iron – This is important to get oxygen to your muscles. If your muscles don’t get oxygen, they don’t work very well, and can cause increased muscle soreness. Available in meats, fish, poultry, green, leafy vegetables, and iron fortified foods such as cereals.
  • Hydration – you are losing water all the time and not noticing it. By the time you feel thirsty, you are already quite dehydrated. Sometimes a body confuses being hungry with being thirsty, so if you feel like you are hungry, but know you just ate an hour ago, try drinking some water and waiting 10 minutes. Even mild dehydration can affect performance (whether on a test or on the field). Water is the BEST way to hydrate. Sports drinks only provide some extra sugar and sodium, and really aren’t beneficial unless you are exercising for more than 60-90 minutes or in really hot weather. If you want some added flavor, add a little lemon or lime. Water is available at fountains and taps all around your school! Use a re-usable water bottle for convenient on the go access at all times.
Remember these are general guidelines, and specifics on how much you eat will depend on your age, size, and activity level. Next week, I’ll go into more detail about MACRONUTRIENTS and how you can discover what right amount might work for you!
Additional information and handouts can also be found HERE.

Have any questions for me?