“If you eat good, you feel good; and if you feel good, you perform good.”
This is Alex Taylor’s motto, a junior and track and field athlete who runs the 100-meter sprint on Western’s track team. In his third year of running collegiate track, Taylor said he’s noticed the foods he puts in his body directly correlates to how he competes.
Taylor said that what he finds hardest in his efforts to eat healthy is affording adequate food and making the time to prepare healthy meals with a busy schedule of classes, homework, practices and meets.
Two of Western’s health specialists give some tips of what student athletes need to eat to be in the best shape for training and competition.
Advice from Westerns Student Health Center came from Dr. Tom Schneider. He said, “My best advice is to eat good food both before and after exercise, and moderation in everything.”
Schneider said nutrition and a good diet are key to a healthy lifestyle in general. The basic nutritional staples for an athlete are a blend of carbohydrates, proteins, healthy fats and fiber. Eating small amounts of critical nutrients such as sodium, calcium, vitamin D and folate are also important.
One quick tip Schneider has to help with recovery after heavy exercise like practice or a game is to eat something with both carbohydrates and protein 30 minutes after exercise.
Schneider also gave advice regarding ideal alcohol intake for athletes preparing to compete.
Student athletes need to stay hydrated with water, Schneider said. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it can cause dehydration, so it should be limited to no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks for men to retain as much water as possible.
Damien Fisher, Western’s head strength and conditioning coach oversees all the sports teams at Western and works with athletes to help them stay in the best shape possible.
“It shows itself in athletes as far as eating healthy in that if your body is in a poor state, it’s hard to perform,” Fisher said.
“The more processed food you eat, the less of those micronutrients you get,” Fisher said. “The more whole foods you eat, the more micronutrients you get.”
Fisher said micronutrients contribute to gut health, intestinal health and overall bodily functions
Fisher emphasized the importance of a healthy breakfast for athletes, explaining that they should be eating complex carbohydrates, foods that are prolonged sources of energy.
Breakfast is a very important part of the day, Fisher said. If a body doesn’t have fuel in the morning, it can’t run correctly for the rest of the day.
Regarding Taylor’s issue on time-management for athletes, Fisher mentions meal prepping for student athletes. Meal prepping is a commitment, but once routinely followed, athletes will begin to see results, Fisher said.
In general, athletes should know what types of nutrients they’re trying to get out of that meal when prepping. Fisher noted athletes should also be taking into account the types of nutrients they need to be getting, and at what time of the day to best prepare for practice and or training, Fisher said.
“Have a plan,” Fisher advised. “Have an idea of what I should have at this time.”