BY JEANINE BIGGS
For athletes at the University of Tampa, nutrition is something that can make or break them in becoming the best athlete they can be. Whether it is a strict high protein diet, or a consciousness of what is being put into the body, food and nutrition could be the difference in being a good athlete and an exceptional one.
“There was one time at the beginning of the year during our very first practice, I just wasn’t hungry during the day and didn’t eat, and I passed out during practice during our run test,”said junior Bryan Uva, defender on the lacrosse team. Passing out was a wakeup call for Bryan which showed him just how important his diet was for his performance. Like Uva, athletes have to be aware of how important it is to maintain a diet and the routines that come with them.
“On game days I eat at different times than I normally would because we play at 7:00 p.m. and I wouldn’t ever eat too much before a game,” senior middle blocker for the volleyball team Marissa Lisenbee said. “If I eat something super heavy before practice or playing in a game, I feel like I’m more lethargic on the court. I think diet is important because we are what we eat. It is hard to be a competitive athlete and eat in an unhealthy manner. It definitely will start to affect play if someone is consistently eating unhealthy because the changes that will happen in terms of body composition.”
Diet may not always be eating specific types of food. For some athletes the most important part of their diet is understanding the most opportune times to eat and how they will affect their performance.
“Timing and total calories is a more important part of our diet. You need to wait a while before practicing or competing, otherwise you cramp up or you might even see your food again,” sophomore cross country runner Joseph Maus said.
In sports that involve large amounts of running, being mindful about the types of foods you eat are just as important about how much or when you eat.
“I think lacrosse is a sport that you need to be aware of what you eat with the amount of running we do, in practice alone I think we can run anywhere between 2.5 to 3 miles, and then being in Florida, it intensifies it a lot,” Uva said “When it comes to eating for lacrosse you have to be worried about the proper water intake, good carbohydrates and proteins as well. A lot of guys will eat all different types of food but I try to keep it towards pasta and chicken to get my carbs and protein.”
Although one may think they have an understanding of the basics of athletic diets, the actual types of food varies on the different sports as the body is used in vastly different ways depending on the sport or activity. An athlete that is going to be running long distances or for a long period time is going to need to eat more carbohydrates in order to keep up their energy levels. In contrast, athletes that compete in sports that don’t involve a lot of running but require agility and quickness are going to eat to stay lean and muscular.
“I usually eat eggs and avocado on toast in the morning, always with a coffee,” Lisenbee said. “For lunch I usually have a salad and a smoothie. Quest bars are a go-to for a snack, and dinner is mostly vegetables and some sort of meat.”
Whether they are sticking to a specific diet plan or being aware and smart about what they eat, athletes need to be just as mindful about what they do not put in their bodies. You can eat the healthiest foods throughout the day, but if you have a cheat meal at the end of the day it can ruin all the good you had previously done for your body.
“I stay away from fried foods. Now and then during late nights you just want an easy meal but it is definitely something I try to stay away from. It makes you feel a lot better throughout the day not having any fried foods or junk foods,” Uva said. “Coming out of high school [I] was about 226 pounds, when I cut out fried foods I immediately lost fifteen pounds.”
Whether you are an athlete or an ordinary student looking to stay in shape, being smart about what products and food you consume can help you reach whatever fitness goal you are striving for. Strict diets are not always necessary but keeping hydrated and staying away from the fast food and other greasy foods will take you a long way.