Hard work will always pay off. According to University of Minnesota Duluth strength and conditioning coach, Harrison Andrews, that is not necessarily true.
“Training is such a minuscule part of athletics,” Andrews said. “Nutrition is everything.”
As it so happens, many researchers and other professionals agree.
According to Dr. David C. Dugdale, III, in his article, “Nutrition and Athletic Performance,” the diet of an athlete or person in training is not much different than any other person’s diet. The only difference being the amount of food and timing of caloric intake.
According to the National Institute of Health, it is important to eat carbohydrates before any physical activity. Ingesting carbs before exercise serves two purposes: keeping the person from feeling hungry and maintaining energy levels for the duration of the activity.
A crucial detail that many athletes tend to forget is the need to replenish carbohydrates during exercise. Sports drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade are easy ways to boost carb levels during activity but the United States Anti-Doping Agency or USADA says that the form of the carbohydrate does not matter.
Nonetheless, sports drinks, fruit juice or fresh fruit seem to be the easiest and most convenient way to refuel the body.
Most importantly, after any physical activity it is important to replenish your body as soon as possible.
The National Institute of Health also recommends eating within thirty minutes of the workout. However, with a grueling class or work schedule cooking a sufficient meal can be difficult and time consuming.
One solution is to drink a glass of chocolate milk.
“It is quick, easy, has carbohydrates and the right protein-carb ratio,” Andrews said.
Dr. John Ivy and other researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have done recent studies that have shown that consuming chocolate milk post-workout improves recovery and overall physical performance among athletes.
Even though chocolate milk has benefits, it may not be available to every athlete and it is easy to use the excuse of time to neglect the proper care of their body.
“I don’t have enough time to eat isn’t an excuse,” Andrews said. “It is so easy to eat a banana, make a peanut butter sandwich or protein-shake and take it with you for after the workout.
In an article by Fred DiMenna, our bodies continue to burn calories after physical activity in order to to recover from the workout.
“Sometimes you don’t know how hard you are working,” Andrews said. “If you are going to work out for two hours, why would you wait for two hours or more to eat?”
Andrews recommends eating five or six smaller meals throughout the day.
“Usually I eat a large breakfast, followed by a snack around 9:00 a.m., lunch at noon, a snack at 3:00 p.m., dinner, and a snack before I go to bed,” Andrews said.
Taking care of and feeding the body well is something that athletes are made aware of before their season begins as meetings with coaches and athletic trainers are mandated.
University of Minnesota Duluth student-athlete Ashley Brown can confirm the importance of eating right.
“Proper nutrition plays a huge role in performance because if you don’t eat, you won’t have the energy to play well,” Brown said. “Before a game or workout I try to eat oatmeal and a granola bar and after the workout I will go home and make a big meal.”
While athletes are aware that their bodies need to be refueled with the proper nutrients, a demanding class and work schedule can make eating the right foods difficult and have an impact on their overall performance.
Sometimes athletes are required to run at 6:00 in the morning, lift at 3:00 in the afternoon and then practice on the field in the evening. It is likely that more calories are being used than consumed due to the intensity of each workout.
Andrews believes that a nutrition plan, similar to the plans that the dining center at the University of Minnesota Duluth offers students, could have huge benefits in athletic performance.
“Sometimes I see kids come in that can lift the world, but didn’t eat all day and they look terrible,” Andrews said.
When attention is not directed at providing the body the nutrients it needs, poor physical performance is likely to follow.
Eating and hydrating properly before, during and after physical activity is the only way to ensure the body is capable of performing at its highest level.