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The Nutrition Challenge for Your Athletes
By Karen Goeller, CSCS
Copyright © Goeller 2014. This article is NOT available for reprint or reproduction.
The Challenge… Can Your Athletes Eat Truly Healthy?
By Karen Goeller, CSCS
I often get asked for meal plans. Many people know how I feel about athlete nutrition in relation to performance, safety, and overall health. It is imperative that your athletes eat TRULY HEALTHY.
I do not prescribe specific meal plans. Your athletes need a high percentage of good carbs for energy. Any meat and many fruits and vegetables should be organic. The money that people are not spending on junk food can go towards the extra few pennies spent on organic. Your athletes need tons of fruits and vegetables. And they should be very well hydrated.
Do not allow any junk food in the gym, before or after practice. Try to encourage your athletes to eat 90% healthy, no imitation foods! That means no TV dinners, potato chips, soda, etc. And certainly NO FAST FOODS! Remember, if you tell them 90% healthy, you must teach them the difference between truly healthy and imitation healthy (processed). That 10% can be saved for parties and non-gymnastics days.
Here is a ten week challenge…
Give your athletes one nutritional challenge each week, spend 10 minutes each week discussing the challenge. Document who takes part and who does not. At the end of ten weeks check competition scores, performance, progress, injuries, absenteeism, etc.
Ask your athletes (and parents) to make one change each week as a group. Here are examples…
The first week ask your athletes to write down everything they ate and drank that day before you start practice. Enter the info into your computer. It may help explain energy trends, injuries, performance, and illness in the future.
Simple challenge: Everyone eat a banana, organic oatmeal, sweet potato, coconut cultured milk (yogurt) or other HEALTHY food before workout.
Everyone try organic coconut water. Live Better in A&P is a great one! (Has electrolytes for great hydration.)
Tell your athletes no soda or drinks other than water with fresh fruit mixed in, almond milk, or coconut milk. (NO soda, Juices, or caffeinated drinks.)
No potato chips, cookies, or similar snacks from bags or boxes. (Good luck with that!)
Have your athletes try coconut milk since it's high in B12. That vitamin helps the body process the carbs for energy.
Have your athletes compare coconut water to coconut milk. There is a difference!
Ask your athletes to eat something green (kale, spinach, avocado) or orange (orange, yam, pepper) from the produce dept. Or split the team in two and assign each group a different color.
Ask your athletes parents to only feed them organic meat if/when they eat any meat.
Take a trip to the supermarket and show them substitutions for some foods. Show your athletes the produce section. (If more than 6 athletes call the supermarket and tell them what you are doing. For great publicity, call your local newspaper. It will set you apart from the other coaches!)
Have a produce party. Each athlete should bring in a different fruit or veggies, enough to feed 3-5 people (3-5 apples, bunch of grapes, bag of spinach). Lay it out on a buffet table and ask each athlete to try 3 things they never tasted before. Make sure the parents are NOT there, but video tape it to show the parents at a later date. Be sure there is a sign on the table in front of each item so the kids know what they tasted. Be sure the kids have paper and a pen to write the stuff down, including what they liked and why (sour, sweet, moist, etc.).
The process of going from eating like a typical American to eating truly healthy will take time, several weeks to months. If they make the changes gradually they will not feel deprived as much as if you shock them. This will not only help performance and safety, it will help your athletes for the REST OF THEIR LIVES. And if they have kids you have helped two generations of people. Please keep me updated!!!
Karen Goeller, CSCS
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