Why Your Athletes' Nutrition Sucks!
FACT: One out of three people in the United States is fat. Lack of proper nutrition, education and exercise are the main culprits.
Actor/screenwriter Kevin Smith got kicked off a plane for being too fat. Logic says he should have said to himself:
'Man, I'm too fat to fly on a plane. Maybe I should eat a salad and go for a walk every once in a while so I don't get kicked off any more planes because I'm too fat to sit in a seat."
Instead he goes on a rampage against the airline, trying to blame them for his addiction to processed meats! Brother, take responsibility for your choices! You *chose* to get fat. Nobody snuck up on you while you were sleeping and injected cheeseburgers into your veins.
So it had me thinking about my athletes. I know I ate like crap when I was in high school. And I still got a Division I scholarship. So just because your athletes appear to be 'in shape' doesn't mean they're fueling their bodies with quality nutrients.
I held an open forum with my team where I answered all their questions about nutrition. It consisted of throwers, jumpers, sprinters and distance runners. So it represented a good cross section of athletes whose training demands cover pretty much every sport I can think of.
Here are the top 3 things I discovered about my (and your) athletes' nutrition…
#3: Most of Your Athletes Don't Eat Breakfast
The saying 'Breakfast is the most important meal of the day' is not a marketing ploy. It's a fact of reality.
And your athletes will give you every sorry excuse in the book…
'I didn't know it was that important!'
'I'm too tired to make breakfast.'
'I'm not hungry in the morning.'
'I got up late.'
Your athletes last ate at maybe 7pm the previous evening and now they're skipping breakfast. So the space between caloric intake is 15-18 hours. Their bodies are in starvation mode by the time they get something in their systems and their blood sugar levels are in the toilet.
You spend endless hours writing workouts, designing plays, coaching, traveling, etc.
And it all goes out the window when your athletes don't consume enough calories to finish workouts or focus on executing plays or technical movements.
Nutrition is easily 70% of your athletes' results and if they don't even eat breakfast, how far off their best are they falling?
Want better results? Convince your athletes of the importance of breakfast and give them some healthy options on what they should be eating!
#2: The Dollar Menu is a Food Group
Your kids don't eat breakfast, so they're starving.
What's the easiest solution for HS kids with no real jobs or money?
$1 double cheeseburgers my friends. And lots of 'em.
Half of your athletes eat fast food a solid 3 days per week. What's most amazing is that your female athletes are often the biggest culprits.
(Enjoy it now ladies because The Freshman 15 is as real as it gets.)
The saying 'You are what you eat' isn't a marketing ploy, it's a fact of reality.
The cells of your body are constantly being replaced…
…by whatever it is that you're eating.
Eat garbage and your body rebuilds itself with garbage.
The athletes on my team who get injured most often and stay injured the longest are, without question, the ones with the worst nutrition.
Parents spend countless hundreds and thousands of dollars on camps, clinics, special coaching, clothing, equipment, travel, physical therapy for their injured athletes, etc.
Coaches spend just as much in time and preparation, travel, coaching education (OK, that's probably not true for most coaches), etc.
Athletes spend countless hours running tough workouts, lifting weights (!), competing, traveling, etc.
And you're all wasting your limited time and money when you ignore the fact that nutrition lays the foundation for everything they do in *and* out of practice.
If you want top performing, injury free athletes, you've got to break their addiction to the dollar menu.
You can't tell athletes:
'I want you to eat breakfast, eat every 2-3 hours, and stop eating fast food.'
…unless you give them healthy alternatives to eat instead.
Otherwise, eating right becomes a job and they just won't do it.
Remember: contingent rewards (if/then propositions such as: if you start eating healthy, then you'll run faster) don't work!!
#1 Your Athletes Want to Eat Healthy, They Just Don't Know What to Eat!
The first part of my Team Nutrition Q&A session was debunking myths:
– No, coffee is not OK to drink every morning before school
– Yes, you must eat 5-6 times per day
– No, sports drinks are not a substitute for water
– No, fruit juice is not good for you in large quantities
– Yes, if you feel thirsty you're already dehydrated
– Yes, you're more likely to get hurt if you don't eat breakfast
You get the idea…
I realized these kids aren't eating junk because they're trying to make me cry, they really have NO IDEA what they should be eating.
As the discussion went on and kids realized what a hot mess their eating habits were *and* how it kept them from performing at a higher level, their questions fundamentally changed.
Instead, the questions were all based around the idea of:
'Well, what should I…
…eat for breakfast?
…eat for a snack during the day?
…drink instead of juice and Gatorade?
…eat/drink before a competition?
…eat/drink during a competition?
…eat for dinner?
Once you start giving common sense answers to these questions, you'll start noticing more water bottles at practice.
More healthy snacks before practice or on the way to the weight room.
More kids telling you (proudly) what they ate for breakfast or dinner.
More kids ratting out their teammates who can't break their Dollar Menu addiction.
And most importantly – more kids finishing workouts, performing at a higher level and NOT getting injured.
Here's the bottom line:
Your athletes' nutrition sucks. Even the good ones.
You've got to coach them in this arena like you coach them on the track or playing fields. Because they want to play better. They want to eat better.
They just don't know what to do.
And you spend too much time and energy being a coach to let half of it go to waste because you think nutrition is someone else's problem.
If you want to get results, then it's your job to make this a part of your program. Starting yesterday.