Elevated Nutrition and Wellness

Top 5 Nutrition Tips for Student Athletes

Student athletes have a lot on their plates! And we are not just talking about food here. From juggling classes, extra-curricular activities, a social life AND training in their sport, their spare time is very limited. Having simple and sustainable strategies to optimize your nutrition as a student athlete is imperative to keep things in check. From my experience as a nationally ranked D1 Cross Country and Track runner and sports dietitian, I have complied a list of useful tips for you to try out today!

1. Plan to eat to support your exercise

You finish your early morning practice only to rush off to your first class. During the lesson your stomach is growling and all you have had so far is a granola bar. You struggle to focus and stay awake as the teacher lectures on. Step one in avoiding the under fueling pitfall is to simply have a plan!

On days where you know you will have a packed schedule, pack your bag the night before or morning of with simple and satiating options like core bars, overnight oats, yogurt parfait with nut butter and granola, or pick up a smoothie before your first class. This not only will help you to recover from your exercise faster, it is also imperative to keep you focused during class!

What if you have afternoon practice? Many athletes who have practice starting at 2-3 pm struggle with overeating in the evening as their bodies strive to catch up with their caloric needs. Having two medium sized lunches is an awesome strategy here as it can help to keep up with your caloric intake and not show up to practice overly full or hungry.

Plan to have a satiating snack after practice as well. A simple 100 calorie bar isn’t going to cut it here. In your late teens or early 20s your caloric needs are high. Try beefing up your post workout snack to better hold you over till dinner. Often implementing these strategies you will find that your energy, hunger and ability to focus are more stable throughout the day.

2. Focus on the plate approach

If you are actively training as a student athlete, meticulously counting your calories in an app is going to be exceptionally time consuming and not always great for your mental health. Instead, focus on how you build your plate to match your training. Learning to shift your plate to reflect easy, moderate or hard training is an effective and simple way to better manage your intake and support your efforts in your workouts! I go more into detail on this approach in my sports nutrition coaching programs.

3. Power up your performance with snacks

I always used to joke that colleges are such a business at heart – and they are! They have students figured out on what they like and need and have built an environment to reflect that. If you look around any campus you will find plenty of opportunities to pick up a snack or drink on the fly. While the ease of this is wonderful, you want to be mindful of the quality of snack you select as it can make a drastic difference in your cognitive and physical performance that day.

If you are preparing to take an exam and grab a candy bar or pack of sugar cereal, you may find it very hard to focus on your test once you sit down. On the other side of the spectrum a keto bar that is high in fat and protein may not leave you feeling energized for a cardio workout with your team.

Just as you plan your training, it is important to plan your nutrition as well. Having snacks on hand that are nutrient dense and fueling you for the task at hand is essential for accelerating your cognitive and physical performance during the day.

Great packable snacks for students include: 

Cottage cheese and Mary’s gone crackers, apple and peanut butter, GoMacro or Aloha protein bars, chia pudding with blueberries, peanut butter, honey and banana sandwiches, or drinkable yogurts like kefir and fruit.

4. Frozen foods for the win

  • frozen foods are easy to find, they don’t go bad, are quick to fix, and are cost effective for a budget shopper!
  • add in vegetables easily to stir fries, scrambled eggs, and smoothies to increase the nutrient density of the meals.
  • watch the calorie content of frozen meals. Healthier options may not have a significant amount of calories to meet your needs as an athlete.
  • make your own frozen burritos or bean burgers so you to easily improve the quality of your frozen meals and have options on the fly!

5. Schedule time to meal prep

Building good nutrition habits can take time, so it is important to schedule time to shop and meal prep into your weekly routine. Having that time set aside can help you stay on track with your nutrition and reduce poor nutrition choices when you find yourself ravenous after a hard practice.

  • Grocery shop and meal prep with a friend or roommate to make the experience more enjoyable and routine.
  • Work with your sports RD to have a plan and grocery list so you can breeze through grocery shopping.
  • Identify healthy restaurants in your area that fit your budget for when you are in a pinch or want to be inspired for new ideas on what to make.

Building a consistent routine with your meal prep can also drastically improve your athletic and academic performance, reduce your recovery times and muscle soreness and help you stay in the game by minimizing potential injuries!

Put your plan into play

By planning out when you will eat, adjusting your plate to meet your activity levels, utilizing snacks and frozen foods to fill in the gaps and scheduling time to put your plan into place you will be ahead of the game as your season progress. If you are struggling with performance or medical aspects of your health, having personalized guidance on your nutrition can make your progress drastically easier as you work with an expert to identify the best next steps to take. 

If you haven’t done so yet,  schedule a consultation call with me and get your questions about nutrition and sport answered. Together, we can delve deeper into your specific needs and create a tailored nutrition plan that aligns with your training and lifestyle.

Don’t let your nutrition be an afterthought. Take charge of your performance and well-being as a student athlete by implementing these nutrition tips and scheduling a consultation call today.

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Written by:

Hi! My name is Eleanor, I have a love for delicious and nutritious dishes, the outdoors, great people, and good times! I am a Registered Dietitian and an enthusiast when it comes to learning about health and how I can help others to feel their best. Learn more about living vibrantly on my site and take your health to the next level with a more individual approach when you meet with me.

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