Inside the Training Room – Nutrition


“You are what you eat,” is an old saying that many people dismiss as ridiculous. But in reality, if you eat healthily, you will be healthy. The keys to being a healthy and successful athlete are as simple as what you eat and drink. The two go hand in hand, and last week I touched on the importance of hydration. This week, it’s all about food. What you eat before a game will directly impact your performance and the food consumed after activity can impact how you recover.

Before the game, it is all about fueling up and getting the energy you need. Carbohydrates provide the primary fuel for exercising muscles. Three to six hours before, things such as pasta, baked potatoes, lean meat, and healthy cereal (among other things that are high in carbs) are a good, healthy option. Two to three hours before, things such as a bagel with peanut butter, yogurt, cheese and crackers, or fresh fruit make good choices as snacks. It is also a good idea to drink 12-16 ounces of water or juice in that time period before a game. Athletes should always avoid high fiber foods, such as broccoli or baked beans, high fat foods, like eggs and cheese, and sugar, soda, or candy. Athletes should focus on eating carbs while limiting the intake of fat and protein, which can cause cramping and indigestion with exercise. By consciously thinking about what you put into your body before an event, you can greatly improve your performance.

During the game, hydration is extremely important. One should hydrate based on the length and intensity of activity and also according to thirst and the weather in which the game is being played. Fruit with high concentrations of water are good options as snacks, such as watermelon or orange slices. One should definitely avoid snacks and drinks that are high in sugar such as soda, candy, or fruit juice. Also try to avoid energy drinks and refined carbs, which may cause an upset stomach, in turn leading to a lesser performance.

Within the first 30 minutes after the game athletes should eat carbs and proteins. Hard exercise depletes the body of carbohydrates especially, which are essential for speeding up recovery. In between or after events, peanut butter and jelly or a turkey sandwich, as well as yogurt, protein bars, nuts, string cheese, and many other things along those lines are good options to eat. Once again, athletes should avoid candy, soda, energy drinks, and also large meals that are low in protein.

Certain supplements, such as protein and creatine, can also be consumed after workouts to assist athletes in recovery. Creatine is an organic acid naturally produced in the body that plays a key role in forming the energy needed to create muscular force and movement. A balanced diet with meat and fish will supply an athlete with enough creatine, but if there is a lack of the acid, supplements are available that can be taken to ensure one is getting a sufficient amount. Protein, on the other hand, is used to build muscle. In addition to protein powder and drinks, greek yogurt, eggs, chicken, turkey, fish, and steak are all adequate sources of protein that can be consumed after a workout.

“We definitely try to encourage protein after workouts, as it aids with recovery,” Head Athletic Trainer JaNae Stewart says. “A lot of times muscle cramping is caused by improper nutrition and hydration.”

The topics of last and this week go hand in hand and are extremely important to be a successful athlete. Both elements together are the first step to a successful performance and can have all the impact in keeping a player healthy and in the game. On a broader scope, healthy eating habits will help an athlete throughout the entirety of their lives. Learning what to eat and what is good for your body at a young age is priceless information that most athletes will carry throughout their athletic career and into their adult lives.