Athlete Nutrition: Keeping On the Weight

Updated: Oct 17, 2019


Being an athlete requires a lot of hard work and dedication. There are a lot of different stresses and varying stimulus that occur to the human body, especially as a high school athlete. Some of the stresses include: decreased sleep, schoolwork deadlines, inconsistent eating habits, sport practices, games and meets, and training at the gym. When all of these stresses occur, hormone and enzyme imbalances also take place. One of the struggles some athletes have during this time is excessive weight reduction and loss of lean muscle tissue. Some people may think "losing weight" is good, but not always. When stress to the body occurs, it doesn’t just reduce body fat, muscle loss can take place as well. For an athlete this isn’t a great situation to be in when their sport requires the use of their muscles at peak outputs. Out of the stresses listed above, there are some that are harder to adjust than others and require effort and focus from the athlete. For example, sleep is tough to adjust when you have homework, practice, and training, but of course it is essential if not vital to an athlete's performance. High school age humans need a minimum of 8 hours of sleep each night to be at their best in sport and in the classroom each day.

Another area where we see high school athletes struggle is with their nutrition and specifically adequate caloric intake. There are plenty of reasons and factors that play a role here, three of the big ones are:

  • Lack of time due to combined demands of school, sport and life.

  • Most schools have lunch midday, but don’t allow any other food throughout the day. We have found this to be a big culprit when surveying our athletes on this topic. If teachers or administrators are reading this please take note that this is not helping students be successful, both from a cognitive development standpoint and athletic performance.

  • Not knowing what to eat. This can be traced to a simple lack of education and knowledge from athletes, parents, coaches and teachers.

A lot of athletes only have one or two meals a day, which isn’t nearly enough nutrition for someone with that much going on in their life. In order for muscles to grow or perform at peak outputs you need a constant supply of fuel, not to mention your brain needs this constant supply to effectively learn and grow in the classroom as well. Everything you do burns calories, and when you compete in sports you need even more as you are asking more of your body than if you were just sitting on your butt. When an athlete isn’t getting the proper nutrition, they will have inadequate energy during competition, increased recovery times afterwards, and an excessive loss of both muscle and fat tissue. These things combined can lead to injuries such as strains and pulls or even ligamentous injury such as ACL tears, decreased performances in your sport and weakened immune response and thus sickness.

On average, a 190# football player playing in a competitive game for an hour will burn approximately 776 calories. That is A LOT of calories! That’s about a third or so of a daily caloric intake. Think about this; if an athlete is burning 776 calories just in a game, and they only have one meal a day (I’m going to assume the meal will be between 400 and 600 calories), then they are in a negative caloric state. When the energy balance is negative that is when body fat and musculature is diminished; not a great situation for an athlete who is constantly asking their body for more more more! In order to help reduce unwanted weight loss, we are going to cover a few tips that an athlete should implement to be more successful in their given sport:

Tip #1: Eat!

As simple and basic as it sounds, you need to eat! It’s all about baby steps though. If you are only used to eating one meal a day, make your next goal to be two meals a day. If you are eating two meals a day, then work on three meals! If you aren’t allowed to bring snacks to school, then you should be sure that you are indeed eating breakfast before school in the morning, eat lunch during school, and eat dinner in the evening. I’m honestly not the biggest fan of pushing protein shakes on athletes as I strongly believe that you should be eating your calories rather then drinking them, but sometimes you have to do what you can to get the needed calories in each day. If you can bring some protein powder and put it in a shaker bottle before school, and make it at school, those are some easy calories and protein for you to ingest between classes. Just fill it up with water between classes, shake it up and drink it. Easy. That's an easy 100 to 200 calories and approximately 20-25 grams of protein that literally will take you less than a minute to both prepare and drink!

Tip #2: Mini Meal Prep

In order to maintain or gain muscle, we need to be eating in a caloric surplus, meaning we need to be consuming more than we are burning. Ideally, you would want to do this with 4-6 meals. The breakdown would be 3 main meals and 1-3 snacks in between. For example, I would have breakfast in the morning, then a snack around 10am, lunch around noon, snack around 2pm, and dinner in the evening. The purpose of this is to keep a constant supply of much needed fuel and energy to our muscle tissue. A tip here is to get the snacks ready the night before instead of grabbing them last second on your way out the door. Having the snacks prepared will make it much easier and you will less likely forget them when you’re in a hurry. Yeah it takes time but those athletes that truly care about getting better will have no problem putting the effort in to do this.

Tip #3: Monster Main Meals

If you simply can’t get the extra snacks in the day, then it is essential that you “overload” your three main meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). Although it isn’t ideal to have three "monster" meals, it is better than lacking the calories your tissue desires during high stress situations. Instead of having a granola bar for breakfast, try having 2-3 eggs, peanut butter toast, and a banana. In turn you will be yielding much HEALTHIER calories and upping your daily totals to better satisfy the caloric needs of the athletes body.

Tip #4: Drink Your Water!

Believe it or not most humans walk around chroncially dehydrated, and it absolutely crushes your performance athlete or not. For active people this is a big no-no and especially so for a competitive athlete. Ideally, you should be consuming AT LEAST half of your body weight in ounces each day, but this DOES NOT include what you consume for water during competition or training.

If an individual weighs 160 pounds, they should be aiming to consume 80 ounces of water per day, but once again, what you drink during practice or a game does not count towards this number! A great tip is to have a water bottle with you and consume them throughout the day. A 32-ounce bottle is ideal. Fill it up in the morning and aim to have that water gone by 11am, refill, have it gone by 2pm, refill and continue! This will help cellular function and allow your body to perform at it’s best. Another great hydration tactic is to consume 25% of your daily water needs before you leave the house in the morning. So again for the 160 pound athlete that means drinking 20oz before you leave the house. Once you create the demand the body will ask you for it throughout the day and serve as an internal reminder for you to get your water.

Nutrition Plan Example #1: 5-meal plan

Breakfast (6:30-7:30am)

  • 3 scrambled eggs

  • 1 piece whole wheat toast with natural peanut butter.

  • 1 banana

  • 12oz of water

Snack 1 (9-10am)

  • 1 package of Nature Valley Granola Bars

  • Water

Lunch (noon)

  • Veggie salad with lean protein (chicken, tuna, beef, eggs)

  • Carton of milk

  • Water

  • Plate of spaghetti w/meatballs

  • Veggie medley or salad

  • Carton of milk

  • Water

  • 1 turkey patty w/ veggies

  • Veggie medley or salad

  • Carton of milk

  • Water

Snack (2pm)

  • Banana/apple with peanut butter

  • Plain Greek yogurt w/granola or fruit (frozen or fresh)

  • Water

Dinner (5-8pm)

  • Shepherds Pie

  • Lean meat (preferably grilled or baked)

  • Steamed Veggies or salad

  • Water

Nutrition Plan Example #2: 3-meal plan

Breakfast (6:30-7:30am)

  • 3 scrambled eggs with ½ cup of veggies

  • 2 pieces whole wheat toast with peanut butter

  • 1 banana

  • Water

Lunch (noon)

  • Large veggie salad with lean protein (chicken, tuna, steak, eggs)

  • Piece of Fruit

  • Carton of milk

  • Water

  • 1.5 plates of spaghetti w/ meatballs

  • Veggies

  • Carton of milk

  • Water

  • 2 turkey patty w/ veggies

  • Mini salad

  • 2 carton of milk

  • Water

Dinner (5-8pm)

  • Shepherds pie

  • Lean meat (preferably grilled or baked)

  • Veggie assortment

  • Water

Of course, these are just examples of how you can get ample calories throughout the day to allow you to be at your best when it’s competition or training time. As previously stated, consuming these calories will also power your brain to be more alert and more successful when in the classroom. You don’t need to follow these meals plans exactly feel free to be creative, but this will give you an idea of how you should be consuming calories throughout the day to see your best performance. If you need further help feel free to reach out to Kevin Darling at XIP Training Systems!

#Exercise #Nutrition #stress #Food #Recover #eliteathlete #highschoolathlete #eating #EattoPerform

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