Imagine you’re driving home from a long sports practice. Your muscles are aching, your breathing is heavy, your throat feels parched and your stomach is begging you to replace the calories you burnt off. All you are looking forward to is going home and stuffing your face with everything you can find in the refrigerator. But, what if you have to watch what you eat, your calorie intake and record your meals? Welcome to the world of athletes’ diets.
With three sports seasons a year, it’s very common for high school students to participate in a sport. The difficult part is figuring out what they need to put in their body to get the right fuel and perform their best in games. According to Eat Right: Academy of Nutrition and Dietics, boys who are constantly active need about 3,000-4,000 calories a day while active girls need 2,000-3,000 a day.
“I believe to maintain a healthy diet when playing sports it’s all about making the decision to not eat the foods that are easy to get to, such as a bag of Doritos in your pantry. Instead pick some sort of fruit or cashews that are healthier,” senior football quarterback Luke Schmeling said. For football players, it’s important to stay uber-hydrated, especially before games. Also, getting enough protein is very important for gaining and keeping muscle mass, according to Schmeling. He stays away from sugar so he doesn’t cramp up after games, and drinks a mixture of water, pedialyte and powerade.
For wrestlers, their diet is a bit stricter. While carbohydrates are considered the most important fuel for an athlete in order to store energy for a workout, wrestlers have to watch their calorie intake in order to make weigh-ins. They need to find a healthy balance of eating and drinking while maintaining the ideal weight for matches. “Maintaining a healthy balance is all about self control. When you’re fluctuating 8 pounds per week your body dries out and you crave water and any food, but of course just a little bit will add just enough weight to put you over the weight class, so keeping your head straight is key,” senior wrestler Mike Monago said.
Out of season, wrestlers pretty much can eat what they want, but they try to keep it healthy. In season, however, is a different story, especially on meet days.
“On the day of a meet, I’ll usually eat a banana or apple for lunch and maybe some peanut butter with it. It depends on how close I am to my weight, so I’ll stand on the scale with my food and see if it would put me over. I try not to drink any water until I’m close or if I can afford it, because just a water bottle will add about 8/10th of a pound,” Monago said.
For wrestlers, not being able to eat enough carbohydrates can be unhealthy. According to Eat Right: Academy of Nutrition and Dietics, “Carbohydrates are the most important fuel for an athlete. Carbs are stored as fuel inside muscles, and athletes need full carbohydrate stores before activity.”
While football players typically need more calories, and wrestlers need less, track and basketball for sophomore Anna Grabau don’t require any strict food intake or regimen. “My diet typically stays the same when entering an athletic season, as I have sports year round. Usually, I try my best to shy away from excess sugars and unnecessary fats. I typically will eat a peanut butter sandwich and fruit an hour or more before my game or meet. Afterwards I would have pasta and chicken,” Grabau said.
Overall, no matter what sport you play, making sure you’re eating a healthy balance of all food groups and drinking water is important. Athletes really need to think about what they’re putting in their body in order to reach their peak performance.
“The most important thing athletes must eat is breakfast to start the day off right. Then they should eat a balance of fruits and veggies throughout the day, as well as good protein. The second big thing needs to be the meals after practice and lifting...I know Coach McKendrick has been hammering this with people in the weight room, and it has started to really show up in our athletes.” Health teacher Matthew Lattig said.