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From student to Olympian, nutrition is necessary

by Hazen Center for Integrated Care
Tue, Feb 27th 2018 11:00 pm

The Olympics are back and sports fever is on the rise. Everyone is in awe of the Olympians’ physical performances, but what we should be in awe about is the work behind the scenes these Olympians do, and not because of their workouts and training.  Nutrition and stress management are huge components of an athlete’s life. It can make or break an athlete’s performance and even their bodies.

If Olympians did not get the proper nutrients they needed, they would not be able to perform at their very best for each of their individual events. Even though everyday people may not do such intense workouts in comparison to an Olympian, it is important for everyone to provide their bodies with the right amount of protein, vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy and water to keep them at their best. Now, you may be thinking, what are foods that I should keep in my diet and what are foods that I should avoid? To answer this question in a simple way, you need to analyze the amount of activity you get during the course of the day, whether that be going to the gym, going to practice, or doing something as simple as going for a walk. All of these are determining factors about what portions of food your body is going to need.

Olympic athletes eat anywhere between 8,000-12,000 calories a day, mainly because of the intense workouts they do. For example, Michael Phelps strictly eats 12,000 calories a day, but that is because he ends up burning off that same amount from his long day of swim workouts. There is a strong correlation between how much you work out and how much you eat. If you eat too little and then do an aggressive workout, your body will not have the right amount of energy to get you through that workout. 

An easy way to look at nutrition is to base your meals off the intensity of the workout you plan to do. There are three types of work out days, an easy day, a moderate day, and a hard day. An easy day would consist of people whose main concern is weight management. On these days, your workout would be easier. For example, the workout could be going for a walk or a bike ride.  Most college students don’t have time to go to the gym; however, any activity you can do that gets you up and moving for just an hour a day is better than nothing.  It’s important to eat well, especially if you’re unable to make it to the gym or get an hour workout in every day.  

Looking at a moderate day, this may consist of having a more rigorous workout that focuses on building on a skill, such as endurance or weightlifting.  On these days, you want to incorporate more grains like pasta, rice, potatoes, cereal, breads and legumes into your diet. It is important that you provide your body with the right amount of food to support a more rigorous gym session. 

On a harder training day, which could be the day of your sporting event or a more intense workout, half of your plate would be grains such as rice, bread, or pasta.  The other half of your plate should have equal amount of fruits, vegetables and lean protein. These are the days that it’s extremely important to get all your food groups in if you want to perform at your best. Fueling your body the right way can make all the difference in your workouts and daily lives. Not only do athletes push their bodies to the limit, but they push their minds as well. 

It’s clear that everyone experiences stress. Athletes are no exception. A little amount of stress is beneficial to an athlete because it can help them focus and stay energized, but too much stress can potentially damage years of hard work. Athletes deal with lifestyle stress, emotional stress, training stress, competition stress and academic stress.

What many people do not know is that the body perceives all stress as the same. For example, the body will not detect the difference between academic stress and emotional stress. With that being said, athletes who want to perform at their best should make sure their lives outside of training is stress-free and manageable. Stress is unavoidable, but it can be managed and if you do it right, it can really work to your advantage. We all know some days are worse than others are, but balancing out the different types of stress life brings is key. If your academic week looks like it will bring you stress, then be mindful of that and adjust other aspects of life to assure the stress elsewhere is reduced.  

So how do you manage the stresses of being a student with additional responsibilities? Here are some tips to manage life’s stresses and ensure success: get plenty of rest, maintain a positive perspective and attitude, laugh, strengthen your support system, engage in recreational activities that de-stress you, manage your time, and create healthy eating patterns. This may seem like a lot, so start small. 

Remember, small daily adjustments will result in big changes over time.

 

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