Two years ago, I was a sophomore on the cross-country team. To say that I was active is an understatement; I was running 50 miles a week. So with all of that activity, you’re probably thinking I was a healthy, fit athlete, but that was not the case. I looked like an American and I ate like an American. I wasn’t fat, not at all, but I was definitely sabotaging my running efforts with my diet.
I made a change to my diet the summer before my junior year, which led to huge improvements in my race times and turned me into the athlete I am today. So, how did I do it? Here are a few tips for athletes who want to gain an edge over competitors through eating what I call The In-Season Diet.
First of all, eat what is going to serve you. When you think about inhaling a piece of cheesecake, ask yourself: is this going to help my body recover from a workout? Is this going to make me feel sluggish for the next two hours? If the answer is yes, grab something that is going to leave you satisfied and energized, like a handful of almonds or a sandwich on whole grain bread.
Next, alcohol should be a once-in-a-while indulgence. Those calories are immediately stored as fat, not burned for energy. Sometimes I hear people justify binge drinking with “well, I was up walking around all night, so it’s fine that I drank so much.” As much as I wish that were true, it’s just not the way it works. If you want to see real results, you have to commit entirely to your cause. Offering to be a sober driver will not only win points with your friends, but also help you maintain a healthy, competition-ready body.
Plan meals ahead of time. This may seem obvious, but at times it can be tricky. If you walk past Nacho Hour and decide on a whim to get a huge plate of cheese-covered nachos, you are eating something you did not originally plan for. Just saying no to these spur-of-the-moment indulgences can do worlds of good for all of the solid training that you put in.
Finally, be consistent and go all-in. One of my teammates always says, “You have to bet big to win big.” In this case I mean you have to give it 100 percent if you want to reap all the benefits of your new, healthier lifestyle. The results will not be instant – they are long-term – but trust me when I say they are worth it.
Good luck to all athletic teams this year. Let’s make this one the best yet. And remember, when the season is over there will be plenty of cheesecake, alcohol and nachos waiting for you!