Nutrition for the College Aged Athlete
There are a few sporting events I particularity look forward to each year, and March Madness is one of them! I thoroughly enjoy watching this NCAA tournament as it is incredible and awe-inspiring how young and talented these student athletes are. The tournament is nearing the end, and we will see the battle of the Final Four very soon (I am cheering on Kansas!). Who will be the winner?!
I really enjoy working with student athletes because it is an area where Dietitians can have a huge impact. I also get to partake in their journey through their university career, and it is overall a very valuable and rewarding experience. For most college athletes, it is their first time moving away from home and living on their own. This can create various barriers to consuming a healthy diet. Barriers may include cooking skills, nutrition knowledge, limited time, limited selection if living on campus, and financial strains and these can greatly affect a young person’s nutrition intake.
Lack of time is likely one of the biggest barriers for college athletes, or everyone for that matter. Athletes spend a tremendous amount of time practicing and completing strength and conditioning plans along with traveling for their sport, going to class, studying, all while trying to maintain a social life. This can be very stressful for an athlete and unfortunately they may neglect to thinking about their nutrition plan. Poor nutrition intake can lead to decreased sleep time/quality, reduced ability to recover from their training, vitamin or mineral deficiencies, increase risk of injury or illness and thus ultimately impair their performance. I believe that providing nutrition support is important for a college athlete’s success, and in the spirit of March Madness, below are a few time and cost saving tips to boost nutrition intake of busy athletes!
Time saving tips
- Batch cooking: Make a point to cook extra food for left overs or be able to pop an extra meal in the freezer for busier times (like exam season, which is fast approaching). Cooking parts of meals ahead of time so it is ready for the week might also be helpful. For example cooking hard boiled eggs to grab for breakfast or snack, or cooking a large pot of rice or quinoa or cooking multiple baked/roasted potatoes to use during the week can cut down on cooking time.
- Meal exchange with teammates: If cooking is new for you or you want to batch cook but get bored of eating the same meal all week, it might be nice to do a meal exchange with your teammates or roommates. Get a groups of 5 people together, each cook 1 meal making 5 portions, and then exchange with your teammates. This way you cook one meal, but end up with 5 different dishes! This might help to motivate you and your teammates to cook and eat healthier meals because now you aren’t just cooking for yourself!
- Choose vegetables that need little prep: baby carrots, cucumber, sugar snap peas, peppers or cherry tomatoes can be packed with very little prep. Other options include asparagus and brussel sprouts which cooks very quick if roasted in the oven, beans steamed on the stove, frozen peas and corn or even bagged salad.
Cost saving tips
- Determine accurate protein needs: Some athletes may be over consuming protein and be forgetting about other nutrients like carbohydrates, healthy fats or fresh vegetables. Protein needs vary between athletes but it is very unlikely we need to eat 10oz steaks multiple times a day, no matter how delicious that sounds. Knowing personal portion sizes for protein, as determined by a dietitian, could cut your meat consumption down and save you a lot of money.
- Include vegetarian meals: Beans and lentils are a very cheap way to get protein into the diet. They also are rich in fibre and carbohydrates and other micronutrients and are low in fat.
- Dairy: Milk is always a good option to have on hand to add a little extra protein to your meals. Greek yogurt is quite expensive, so look for it on sale or branch out and try cottage cheese. Cottage cheese can be eaten plain, with crackers, pita or fruit, or you could also mix in some taco seasoning and dip your vegetables in it. Two of my personal favourite ways of using cottage cheese include cottage cheese egg muffins, and high protein pancakes.
- Cheap Carbs: Potatoes are packed with complex carbohydrates and they are often super cheap. Don’t underestimate the power of the potato!
- Frozen vegetables: Frozen vegetables may be the way to go if you find you can’t use it up before it goes bad. They are also usually quick cooking and precut so it’s super easy and convenient to get in some vegetables.
- Shop those sales: Don’t be afraid to shop the sales, I stock up on expensive items when they go on sale, especially chicken, cheese and chocolate milk!
Writer: Stephanie Boville MSc, RD
Registered Dietitian and sport nutritionist with ESN and Athlete’s Care Yorkville. email@example.com
Stephanie is passionate about helping athletes of all ages reach their athletic goals through nutritional means. She is very interested in nutrition interventions for concussion management and joint health as these two areas are very important in sport.