The athlete’s diet has a huge effect on performance. In fact, the nutritional choices our athletes are using to fuel their bodies can make or break a practice, match or workout session. However, it is important to empower our athlete so he makes the right choice on his own. Placing the power of success or failure in his hands is a great tactic; having him make optimal choices for their bodies, minds, and athletic endeavors can have a positive effect on performance on the athletic field and also in the classroom. And, lets not forget that teaching him how to fuel his body also teaches him athlete how to fuel his mind. A clear, sharp mind can help with strategizing in addition to focussing. In a critical match, a well fueled brain can be a determining factor in their success.
Educating our athletes by providing good examples and communication, and by being a sound role model can be a great way to put them in charge of their nutrition. We have to come to terms with the fact that we are not around our children all day. They are most definitely eating lunch at school, as well as snack and, with many after school and sports schedules, sometimes dinner or breakfast is eaten “on the road.” So, we have to trust that we have given them enough information to make healthy choices. By giving them proper knowledge and tools in order to make these choices we are empowering them.
Below is a list of “things we should know,” followed by questions and conversation starters to put our kids in control of their diets. Remember, we are not around them at all mealtimes and snack times. We can give them the tools to reach for the fueling foods but they eventually have to make the choice. We want to encourage them to realize the impact that they have on their own success. When our athletes are competing they are ultimately on their own. We want to empower so they understand that they are the key to their own success.
Things to stress:
1. Water Water Water. We want them to be drinking water throughout the day. Maybe, parents or caregivers should even be joining in on the fun. Set an example by drinking two big glasses of water with your athlete when you wake up. Don’t forget to have them download a water app on their phones to remind to drink up every hour. (See the previous post about water consumption)
2. Read the ingredients on all packaging: If you can not pronounce the ingredient, try not
to eat it. Less is more: the least number of ingredients in an item, the better.
3 Balanced meals. We need to have protein, fat and carbohydrates at all (or most) meals.
4 Snack before, during and after intense practices and matches.
5. Mind over matter: Thoughtful rather than compulsive consumption. Our athletes are movers and shakers. We don’t want what their eating to consume their thoughts. We want them to remain mindful without it overcoming their thoughts. So, make it fun. Having a REAL, wholesome treat make with all natural ingredients. Try wholesome ice cream, homemade banana bread or fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. They are allowed and our hard working athletes deserve it!
Conversations with our Athletes:
1.We know we are hydrating and have enough water in our system if our urine is clear or a faint yellow. So, if it looks different, we need more! How do you think we can increase our water consumption? Maybe having two glasses in morning, when we get up, and two in the late morning? How do you think we can get more water into our systems? Sometimes its really hard to drink enough; lets try mixing the water with a little pure fruit juice or some lemons. Sometimes that makes it a little tastier.
2. Ok, so you have been getting tired during the match. What have our meals been lately? Do we have carbs, fats and protein at meals? What are your favorite foods in these categories? Lets discuss and I will be sure to have them in the house! Also, if we make a list of the foods that are most performance enhancing maybe we can make sure we are getting a balanced, fuel efficient meal in at school. What are your favorite carbohydrates? Proteins? Vegetables? Lets make sure you are eating what you enjoy!
3. We need an easy on the go snack before practice. What do you like? If you’re big into pretzels, lets add some almond butter to it. If you love peanut butter, lets add some carrots (yes, carrots with nut butters can be delicious) or an apple if the carrot snack ‘weirds you out!’. And, lets remember we don’t want to be too full-we want just enough so we can have “happy feet” around the field and court. During games, do you think you need a pick me up? Should we try a few different energy bars (there are a lot of preservative free options out there)? Or how about an energy drink? (Again, there are some new options with great electrolytes available or fruit juice in water can be a nice pick- me-up!)
Also, keep in mind after one too many times ‘hitting a wall’ or feeling extremely sluggish after chowing down on a grilled cheese or burger with fries before hitting the court, or drinking a milkshake before practice, our athletes will quickly (and quietly) learn a good lesson on fueling the body!!!