While sports may consume the busy lives of student athletes, making the choice of what to consume beforehand serves as an entirely different struggle.
As their choice may affect their moods, comfort and energy levels, athletes are forced to become responsible for any decision that has the potential to affect their health and athletic performances. It becomes crucial for athletes to make health-conscious decisions because a smart diet can play a huge role in their ability to perform.
Whether it is scarfing down a bag of Chex Mix from the vending machine minutes before practice or placing a health-conscious order at lunch, athletes often struggle to fulfil the necessary balance in their eating habits.
While eating too much can cause athletes to feel sluggish or nauseated, not eating enough beforehand can also make them feel tired and weak. Timing becomes extremely important, but what they choose to consume can play an even larger role.
Athletes should strive toward eating a healthy meal two to four hours before competing, followed up by a healthy snack less than two hours before exercising. It’s smart not to eat right before working out since digestion requires energy, which can take away from an athlete’s energy level during a game or practice.
Finding the balance between how much athletes eat and knowing how it affects their bodies proves to be a real advantage in the long run. By making health-conscious eating decisions, athletes have the opportunity to boost their energy and improve their overall performances.
“I always eat apples before practices and games because they give me energy, but they don’t fill me up to the point where I feel sick during the workouts,” varsity field hockey member senior Kelsey MacDonald said.
Several athletes also turn to foods that advertise a combination of vitamins and nutrients that can boost athletic performance.
“I like to eat a Balance Bar before practices because it tastes good, and it gives me the energy I need to get through practices and meets,” cross country runner junior Nicole Wemyss said.
Carbohydrates generally make up the majority of an athlete’s diet because they are stored in the body as glycogen, which in turn helps the endurance and stamina of an athlete. While there are plenty of foods that have high carbohydrate contents, athletes should look for carbohydrates that come from whole grains, fruits and vegetables. By doing so, athletes will ensure they are supplemented with the vitamins and minerals they need rather than getting their energy by filling up on processed foods.
Ideally, athletes should hydrate and eat nutritious foods while still staying aware of how long it takes to digest the food they choose to eat. Hydration is extremely important before and after competition or training because as the body sweats to cool down body temperature, the loss of water increases athletes’ chances of becoming dehydrated, which can negatively impact their performance.
Water can also work to ease digestion, yet athletes should still be conscious of how long it takes for their bodies to process their pre-competition meals. While carbohydrates are easy to digest, foods with high protein or fat contents stay in the stomach for a longer time and can possibly disturb an athletes’ level of comfort when playing, ultimately affecting their games.
The most important thing is finding out what works for the athlete individually and knowing the effect it has on each athlete’s own performance and ability.