By Erin Townsend
For Spartan athletes to train and compete at a superior level, part of their formula for success is knowing how to properly fuel their bodies to dominate Sunshine State Conference play.
“If you want to perform your best as an athlete, you should care about how you fuel yourself,” said senior cross country runner Aimee Epps.
Instead of following a specific diet, integrating healthy eating habits is the most beneficial and long lasting option, according to athletes.
“I would not really say I follow a diet, I call it a lifestyle. My motto is eat clean, train dirty,” said swimmer junior Marisa Barton.
Some players, such as Epps, noticed that being more food conscious not only improved their performance, but also their health and well-being as a whole.
“Diet has a lot more to do with performance than many athletes give it credit for I believe the change in my diet is part of why I dropped over a minute in my 5k time,” Epps said.
These healthy eating habits revolve around eating a combination of different whole foods over processed foods.
“My diet goals are to eat as balanced as possible [including] lots of protein, vegetables, fruit, grains and carbs. I try to put in the best food in order to produce the best performance in volleyball,” said volleyball player senior Berkley Whaley.
These individual formulas can vary within a team depending on position or performance goals. A sprinter and long distance swimmer are going to have different nutrition plans to prepare themselves nutritionally.
“My particular diet is beneficial to my sport of swimming and type of events which are sprint events because I remain lean but keep my strength and muscle mass at the right amounts,” said swimmer senior Jordan Augier.
A major goal for a lot of Spartans, especially swimmers, is taking in enough calories of proteins and carbs to help to continue building muscle from their high-intensity workouts and prevent muscle breakdown from calorie deficiency.
“For [swimming], it is very important to make sure we are properly fueled before we train. We burn ridiculous amounts of calories in our two-hour training sessions each day. In order to be able to train as hard as we do, it is important that we replace those calories as soon as possible,” said Barton.
What you take in immediately after a workout is essential to promote growth and prevent breakdown. Chocolate milk is a favorite option because of its ideal mixture of proteins, carbs, and electrolytes.
“My diet goals are to make sure I am always fueled properly for practice. That means getting in the right kind of carbs, such as fruits. After practice, my goal is to start recovery right away. I love drinking chocolate milk or a protein shake right after I am done with training,” said Barton.
Each athlete has different food groups that they pay particular attention to, but most included increasing protein intake and limiting sugar intake.
“I stay away from sugary and greasy foods and track that I get the right kind of carbs and proteins, such as whole-wheat pasta and chicken, along with plenty of fruits and vegetables,” said Barton. Augier mentioned that focusing highly on hydration was also important to him.-
Another big element of any athlete’s diet is knowing the right type of carb to eat. This would include eating whole grains, fruits and vegetables instead of sugars and simple starches, like white bread.
“I try to eat a good amount of healthy carbs so that I can burn them and turn them into fuel when I am competing or training,” Whaley.
Throughout their training, when athletes eat carbs, it is vital to their training regiment. Many swimmers like to increase their carb intake before important events to optimize their amount of stored energy.
“I try my best to eat healthy and take out a lot of sugar from my diet so I will rarely be seen eating sweets, especially before my big meets. Also, in the weeks leading up to a big meet, I will eat only protein and greens and the week before start carb loading with pasta. The diet I follow is important for swimmers because carb loading really ensures that your body has plenty of stored energy, and this is essential when swimming twice a day for four days at big championship meets,” said swimmer Jeremy Parker.
While eating healthy and maintaining a proper intake of nutrients, the secret to any successful diet is to have room for an occasional cheat meal. “I do have a favorite guilty pleasure food and that is bacon. I love bacon,” said Whaley.
Epps, senior soccer player Lauren Moore, and volleyball player Allee Stelogeannis all treat themselves to pizza or ice cream (Ben & Jerry’s) after a challenging practice or competition. Barton and Parker love candy, while Augier’s cheat meal is McDonalds.
Most Spartan athletes said that they save these treats as a reward for pushing through a hard workout or as a post-season treat. This helps keep them motivated to stick with a healthy diet because they are not completely restricting themselves from food they love.
“Diet is good for me as an athlete because if I just kept eating whatever I wanted without considering my weight, I’d be putting my health in risk and my playing ability would decrease,” said hockey player Bryan Bellemore.
With knowledge on how to fuel their bodies properly and maintain a wholesome balanced lifestyle, Spartan athletes are able to uphold a commanding presence and continue to dominate when game time starts.