Athletes & food

Is diet the key to performance?

By Destry Groth

Donuts, cookies, ice cream, Sonic! Yum! Right?  At Sacred Heart, athletics are a big part of several students’ lives. Emphasis is placed on conditioning, weight training, practice, and more. However, one topic that perhaps should be discussed more often is athletes and what they put in their bodies.

Yes, I’m talking about our diets. Many at Sacred Heart are both students and athletes with busy and strenuous schedules. Are we giving our bodies the energy needed to perform at the level expected of us by our coaches? Or are we letting down our teammates and coaches by not making good decisions with our diet?

Late nights and early mornings can lead to kids not eating well. Teens tend to skip meals if they are an inconvenience to their busy schedules; meals like breakfast are pushed aside for an extra ten minutes of sleep.

Our sports teams usually travel two nights a week, ranging from a three-hour trip for our football team to play Lawrence-Nelson to a late volleyball game in Beatrice. These are all long drives and late nights. If the bus stops at all on the way home, it is typically at a fast-food restaurant so we can quickly get back on the road.

Lately, there has been a push for parents to help provide meals for their players on the way home from competitions. Is it just a chance to get food sooner and arrive home earlier, or is it also the opportunity we need to properly fuel our bodies? Typically, the food provided by parents is healthier than anything we would bring ourselves or get while on the road.

Not only is post-game nutrition important, but what we eat before competition is also essential. Our meal before a game or tournament should not be overlooked. Consuming food that is high in carbohydrates three to four hours before any sort of exercise has been proven to have a positive effect on an athlete’s performance. A small snack two hours before exercise may also help, as it could provide extra energy later.

Trying to make the healthier choice may be difficult, but we also must remove some things from our day-to-day diets. For example, instead of fried foods and meats, a better option would be grilled meats and vegetables. Instead of sugary candy, athletes should try snacks such as pretzels, fresh or dried fruit, cheese, peanut butter, yogurt, or trail mix.

One other health factor that must not be overlooked is hydration. Drinking water is important, but you cannot just chug water on game days. To be hydrated you need to drink at least an ounce of water per pound of body weight. Another way to replenish your lost fluids and electrolytes could be to eat fruits or vegetables, such as watermelon, strawberries, cucumbers and kiwis, and drink sports drinks. It is important to stay hydrated throughout the season, not just on game days.

Sacred Heart athletes, parents and coaches should all be looking into and caring more about dietary habits and hydration. It is important that we focus more on what is put into our bodies and how they can help or hurt our performance. Although these changes may not be easy, making smart dietary choices will be the best decision in the long-run.