Having sound principles of nutrition can have a large impact on the performance and recovery for your athletes. Typically, we want our athletes to be stronger, faster, and more explosive. A part of this is being properly fueled for athletic performance and having a leaner (more muscle, less fat) physique. Educating our athletes about what they should be consuming before and after training or events, and what foods they should be consuming at other times, can be beneficial for overall athletic performance.
Pre- and Post-Workout Meal Education for Athletes
Educating the athletes on what their pre- and post-workout meals should look like can have an immediate impact on their performance. These should consist of high carbohydrate (grains, bananas, rice), moderate protein (whey, chicken, tuna), and low fat (olive oil, peanut butter, almonds). Carbohydrates are our main source of fuel for athletic performance and recovery. Therefore they take precedence in these meals around training! Some great meals for before training could be rice cakes and peanut butter, tuna fish sandwich, or whey protein and almonds.
Athlete Nutrition for Large Groups
When working with large groups of athletes, individualization of nutrition can be difficult. Within a collegiate or high school setting, making general recommendations is typically the best route to go initially. First, you want to establish what the goals of the team or individuals are. After establishing this, simply try to suggest better habits that are conducive to the athlete’s goals. Start with establishing the goal of consuming lean protein at every meal; this may consist of: chicken, lean beef, egg whites, etc. Once this has been accomplished, start to add in other habits; maybe consuming 3-4 servings of fresh produce a day.
Athlete Nutrition for Individuals
When getting more specific with athlete nutrition, we can start recommendations for individuals. There are 3 macronutrients that contribute to total caloric load:
- Protein (4cal/gram)
- Carbohydrates (4cal/gram)
- Fat (9cal/gram)
This means that for every 1 gram of protein we consume, we also consume 4 total calories. The concept is the same with carbohydrates and fat. If an athlete is looking to gain weight, they will want to consume anywhere from 0.8 – 1 grams of protein, 2-3 grams of carbs, and 0.5 grams of fat per pound of bodyweight, daily. If they are looking to lose weight, they will want to stay on the higher end of protein requirements (1g/lb). Also, consuming less carbs when they have no workout/practice (1g/lb) and can consume more when there is a workout/practice (2g/lb). The amount of fat (0.5g/lb) will stay the same for hormonal and cell function reasons.
The most important overall factor for body composition change is staying in a caloric deficit to lose weight. However, being in a caloric surplus to gain weight. An easy way to calculate total caloric need can be taking your bodyweight and multiplying it by 12 (240lb x 12 = 2900 calories).
In closing, if we can educate our athletes to understand the benefits of proper nutrition and how it impacts athletic performance, we are already a step ahead. By creating better daily habits and improving our pre and post workout meals, athletes are on the fast track to taking advantage of a leaner and more powerful body.
The 2009 Strength and Conditioning Professional of the Year, Jeff is in his 16th year at Winona State University as Strength and Conditioning/ Director of Fitness. He is responsible for 10 Division II teams. Previously he was the head strength and conditioning coach for Olympic sports at Iowa State University, an assistant at the University of Memphis, and an assistant at the US Olympic training center in Colorado. Reinardy was part of two men’s basketball national championships in three appearances, numerous conference championships, and several individual national champions at both the Division I and II levels. He also holds club coach and sports performance certifications through USA Weightlifting, and is the former ADFPA American Squat record holder in the 148 weight class and four Minnesota state ADFPA championships.