I remember heading to college my freshman year. A huge mix of excitement and nervousness for what was to come. Not so much for classes, honestly, more so for my new intense practice schedule as a swimmer.
I knew I had so much potential coming from a swim team that worked hard, but didn’t have as much time in the pool as many other athletes and had next to no weight room experience. Still, as I wondered how my body would handle the training adjustment, even as a nutrition student, the role of snacks and my eating schedule in adapting never crossed my mind.
So, I learned the hard way. I made good choices at actual meals and allowed myself cookies and ice cream after dinner when I wanted them. I definitely wasn’t too low on calories my first two semesters. However, overall nutrients? Protein timing? Hydration? Not things I was knowledgeable enough to recognize I was doing wrong. Looking back, heading to 2 hour AM workouts on an empty stomach and avoiding sports drinks because I thought they weren’t healthy were bad ideas. That’s probably what led to late night cravings for calzone delivery (I did get broccoli in them at least) or mini-binges on Butterfinger and Reese’s. Snacking during the day between breakfast and lunch or at least before another intense afternoon workout? I can’t recall any of that except for maybe an occasional PowerBar Harvest bar.
I not only had a quad injury by our first meet in October, but I also wasn’t recovering well and my energy levels were not that of someone with an extremely high fitness level. My times improved slightly by the end of the year, and I surely gained muscle mass, but my body was not performing the way it should. I didn’t know any better, though.
Now I do. And that’s what I love about my career. I think my #1 all time favorite thing to do is speak to high school and college athletes. I get so excited while providing them with this valuable information, so they can feel empowered to maximize their training and performance. I always tell them nutrition is part of their training, not a separate piece.
And, healthy eating for an athlete is not the same as healthy eating for a non-athlete. No two are alike in what they need for their own body as well. Still, there’s 10 items that can be helpful to any athlete. Here’s my picks for your dorm room.
1. Whole Food Snack Bars
Yes, snack. Not meal replacement. Some are better preworkout or in the middle of the day, others are better post-workout when you can’t make it to the dining hall within an hour of exercise. Continue reading