Why 'athletes can eat whatever they want' is a myth
Here’s a staggering fact. Worldwide, the United States ranks in the top nations for obesity AND malnutrition. Essentially, we are a nation that’s fed, yet fueled by foods stripped of nutritional value. Unfortunately, because many of our athletes don’t appear to fit the first category of obesity, we assume their level of activity allows them the freedom to eat whatever they want.
This myth couldn’t be further from the truth.
This is by no means to say that fries, ice cream, and pizza can’t play a role in our athletes' (and our own) lives, but the notion that they burn off whatever they eat so the foods they choose are irrelevant perpetuates a cycle disastrous for their game, growth, and health.
By definition, a calorie is merely a measurement of energy... more specifically, the amount of energy the body will receive from any given food or beverage.
Similar to the fact that a pound of bricks weighs the same as a pound of feathers-
3000 calories of Big Macs provides the same caloric energy as 3000 calories of spinach.
However, the quality of that energy is where vast differences lie.
While the body may be fed, it's often starving for nutrients: fiber, vitamins, and essential minerals,
Stripped of nutrients, the body is at increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, inflammation, behavior disorders, digestive disorders, fatigue, energy waves, obesity, chronic injuries, frequent illness, mood swings, aggression, kidney disease, high blood pressure, and cancer.
I often remind athletes that the foods they choose essentially provide the difference between skating on sharp versus dull blades.
Meaning the foods they choose have the power to
🚨 reduce risk of injury
🚨 improve recovery
🚨 increase endurance
🚨 strengthen immunity
🚨 facilitate muscle growth
🚨 increase energy
🚨 promote quality sleep
Yet, even knowing the benefits, fueling is still too often an after-thought.
Consistently choosing nutrient-dense foods is easier said than done when time, budget, and schedules aren't factors, right?
I get it. Travel sports are expensive. They're time consuming. And the schedules are often bewildering.
Rethinking "fast food," though, has a dramatic impact on their performance, growth, and future health.
Short on time? A simple rotisserie chicken can turn into a quick salads, wrap, burrito bowl, or pasta dinner.
Budget tight? Incorporate less-expensive plant proteins (quinoa, tofu, farro, chickpeas) into meals to minimize rising costs of animal proteins.
Hectic schedule? A prepared pantry, fridge, and freezer means grab & go meals and snacks are ready when you need them. Early morning? 10 minutes before bed prepping overnight steel-cut oats ensures breakfast is ready when you wake up.
While we always leave room in life for waffle fries, wings, and burgers... empowering athletes now to choose nutrient-dense foods provides decades of performance and future health support.
Which is your biggest challenge... time, budget, or schedule?