All you can eat: A coach’s guide to athlete nutrition

Eli Hartman-Seesion, Sports Editor

Healthy Grabs.

Contrary to what many people might think, the most important thing for winning a game isn’t how how fit they are or how physically prepared they are, it’s in the foods they eat and in eating often.

“One thing we could do a better job with is paying attention to what the athletes eat after lunch through the end of their practice or contest” Baseball coach and wellness teacher Frank Consiglio says.

Snacking throughout the day is key, especially on “something protein heavy, carb heavy, maybe with a little fat, like almonds”. These small snacks, or “grabs” are necessary to prevent players from going to practices or games hungry.

Hydration and protein are the two pieces coaches look for most in their players’ diets explained coach Consiglio.

For too many athletes, hydration comes in the form of Gatorade or other sugared sports drinks, but “generally water does the trick”. In fact, the use of sugary drinks can be detrimental to athletes because sugars become stored in the body as fat.

Just because protein and water are two of the central necessities for hungry athletes, players still need energy from other places. “You need to stay protien heavy, but with a concentration on staying carb-loaded,” Consiglio says. This does not mean snacking on chips, pretzels and candy all day, but rather trying to load up on vegetables and other complex carbohydrates like fruits and beans.

So for athletes, the instructions seem simple. All a player needs is to drink water, eat plenty of protein and carb rich snacks, and avoid sugars and other simple carbs. Coach Consiglio also stressed the importance of eating the right fats, such as those found in almonds. Fats are the primary source of energy for the human body. Consiglio was very clear, athletes must set aside their stigma towards fats if they are to properly fuel their bodies.

Helping to promote these guidelines, school is creating the new after school dinner program. “You need nutrients, you need food” Consiglio says. Now, right after school, students can go to the West Cafeteria to buy a hot meal. For athletes who eat quickly, this is a great option to fuel up before a practice.

It is equally important to refuel after a practice or game. Even if a player is planning to sleep as soon as the contest or practice is over, is important to eat complex carbohydrates, just like before the contest, to help refuel the body. This is a time when athletes must remember to make healthy choices, it is easy to choose pasta, rice, or sandwiches after a game, but it is far more healthy to eat vegetables, beans, and lean meats or fish. If an athlete does not replenish themselves, it is much harder for the body to heal itself and prepare for the next practice or game.

Although it may not be the easiest, cheapest, or even most tasty diet, coaches know the importance of their players eating healthy grabs throughout the day, filling up on complex carbs, proteins, and healthy fats. For all athletes, these instructions are crucial for success in practice and in games.