I found this title quote in an article by NFL All-Pro Lineman LeCharles Bentley and it is hanging on the door of the fitness center at C.C.S. There are many fit individuals out there who are addicted to the increased dopamine and serotonin levels in their brains caused by intense exercise.  They are able to find the intrinsic desire to work out each day and consider themselves to be highly motivated.  They work their systems to the max and “get after it”….. always striving to reach the highest levels of personal fitness.  Shortly after kicking their own backsides they find themselves chowing down a large burger, fried chicken tenders (dipped in Ranch of course), supersized fries (because fries are a vegetable) and chasing it all with a large cafemochalatefrappachino!  They just worked out and burned a ton of calories.  Why not eat anything they want?  They have earned it of course!  “If the furnace is hot enough, anything will burn”!!  The fact remains, a person cannot out train a poor, nutrition-deprived diet.  The body will eventually breakdown somewhere. When we are speaking about athletes, we want to rebuild, repair, recover and replenish. This can only occur by putting the highest octane fuel in the sports car!

What to eat?  When to eat?  How much to eat?  What is quinoa?  Is protein powder good for me?  Is a ketogenic diet healthy?  What is the difference between being a vegan and a vegetarian?   Is intermittent fasting beneficial?   There are as many questions regarding nutrition as there are people on the planet.  I find it insane that our system and society, as educated as we think we are, do not know more about the foods which we fuel ourselves with each day.  Most schools offer a nutrition component within the Health Curriculum.  I personally find it odd that we study and explore English, Mathematics, Science and many other disciplines at every grade level as we progress through the educational system, yet we have a two to three week concentrated unit of study regarding the foods we eat.  Of course the aforementioned courses very are important, but isn’t our health of equal value?

I read a disturbing article several years ago by John Ikerd titled, “Americans, Overfed and Undernourished http://web.missouri.edu/~ikerdj/papers/SFT-Overfed%20-%20Undernourished.htm . The tenants of his work are truer today than ever.  I could easily go off on a tangent regarding the elimination of the family farm and its lasting impact on our health.  I will choose to continue in the direction of helping our student and athletes to better understand food choices and what they should be eating to maximize their performance and recovery.

We all know that food is our fuel source and we should all be “eating healthy”.  The difficulty is finding affordable, nutrient dense foods which are easy to prepare and consume.  Our “grab and go” lifestyles have us in a routine of wondering versus planning what we’ll eat next.  Since the Coronavirus has temporarily slowed our lifestyles down a bit, now is the time more than ever, to explore some new and different foods.  There may also be time to plan and plant the first family garden!

When I searched Google and punched in the “best foods for athletes”, an abundance of foods and lists became available from hundreds of different sources.  I simply selected the most frequently occurring foods which I found when I explored and compared over twenty of these lists.

Foods to add to the athlete’s diet

  • Berries
  • Beans/legumes
  •  Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, etc.)
  • Nuts/seeds (almonds, walnuts, sesame seeds, flaxseeds, etc.)
  • Oats/rice
  • Cherries
  • Dark Leafy Greens (Kale, Swiss Chard, Spinach, Romaine lettuce)
  • Eggs
  • Salmon
  • Chicken
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Good fats (avocados, olive oil, coconut oil)

Foods to avoid in the athletes diet

  • Fruit juice, energy drinks and sports drinks
  • Soda, regular or diet
  • White breads
  • Microwavable popcorn
  • Fried foods (all types)
  • Sugary breakfast cereals
  • Flavored yogurts
  • Canned soups
  • Frappuccino and sugary coffee beverages
  • Processed meats

There are many factors which contribute to a person’s diet.  If it were economically feasible to eat 100% organic I believe that more people would do so.  My suggestion is to take a couple of items from the “Foods to Add” list and eliminate a couple from the “Foods to Avoid” list.  Small changes can reveal a marked improvement over time.  Living the lifestyle of an athlete is much different than being good at sports. The fact is that anyone can live an athlete’s lifestyle.  It is simply a matter of making one good choice at a time.

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