Being a student-athlete can be tough but it can also be marvelous. On the one hand, you might have to sacrifice a few parties, stay later in the library than anyone else to catch up on work or wake up at 5 am for your first meeting or workout. On the other hand however, you get to know that you were part of the team that brought all the glory and good spirit on game days. One added stress you don’t want to have to think about is food, an all so important aspect of any athlete’s life, but it doesn’t have to be as complicated as some people make it. So here are our top 8 diet tips for student-athletes!
First and foremost, as a student-athlete, you are going to be burning far more calories than an average student so it’s important that you are eating and drinking enough. Not just to ensure athletic progression but also for general health. You don’t want your athletic activities to hinder your education and not eating or drinking enough could make you tired and unable to focus.
It’s not just the macros
Countless athletes will focus solely on their macronutrients. And while it’s extremely important to track things like calories, protein, carbs, etc. Especially for a performance athlete. It is also extremely important to ensure you are getting all of your micronutrients through a balanced and healthy diet. This should include your macronutrients but should also ensure you get all of the vitamins and minerals you need. This will mean lots of whole foods, fresh fruit, and veg. Not just plain chicken and pasta every meal!
It can be tempting to turn to a whole host of supplements and sports drinks for your nutrition. And while they can be useful for extra energy boosts occasionally, you should be eating a balanced diet of whole foods including fresh fruit and veg, meat and fish, and wholegrain bread. The importance of eating whole foods instead of processed foods is that each part of the food has different health benefits and work together so if you isolate certain aspects of them and not others, you will lose out on some of those benefits.
Don’t force it
Eat your food slowly and with mindfulness. If you feel like eating another bite will make you sick, then stop eating. Your workout regime will mean you are hungrier than average anyway and you will, therefore, eat more. It can be slightly uncomfortable to make sure you eat enough occasionally but it shouldn’t hurt, and if it does that’s your body’s way of telling you to stop.
Easy on the sports drinks
After your workout, it’s essential to replenish the water you lost through sweat, but it’s also important to replenish the electrolytes as you don’t want to dilute the salt levels in your body too much. As a solution for this, sports drinks and their genius marketing have led to millions across the globe never doing a workout without a sweet electrolyte drink by their side. But these drinks are absolutely filled with sugar. Instead, opt for water with a pinch of salt along with a balanced meal to replenish yourself post-workout.
If you miss a shake it’s not the end of the world
Don’t worry if you miss one protein shake or one meal. It’s not the end of the world. Focus on having a healthy routine but remember that breaking your routine once in awhile isn’t going to hinder your progress. And actually every now and then you should take a break from your training for a week or a few days to properly recover.
You can still eat out with friends
Restaurants now cater to all different dietary requirements. If you are on a low carb diet or dairy-free or gluten-free etc. There will be restaurants that cater to it. You can also order individual things from the menu instead of whole meals and most places will be happy to help. Your mental health and being able to socialize and spend time with people you care about is just as important as your physical health so ensure you make time for this kind of thing. And eating out can still mean eating healthy!
You can still drink in moderation
A lot of people will say that the performance athlete shouldn’t drink. And it’s true that in competition times it’s not advisable. But every now and then going to a party and getting a bit drunk will not affect your long term performance. Just ensure you don’t make a habit of it, and when you do do it, recover properly and don’t let it throw you off your training schedule too much. Hopefully, this article has been useful for student-athletes and helping people decide which dietary choices are best for them!