The Missing Link for Athletes: Nutrition
When it comes to fulfilling your potential, it is IMPOSSIBLE without enough of the right fuel. If you hop in the car to drive cross country, but fuel up the gas powered vehicle with diesel, you aren't going to be happy with the result. The same can be said if you try to drive cross country on 20 miles till E. In both of the scenarios above, the individual has a place they want to go but unfortunately can't get there due to lack of the right resources. The human body is no different. If an athlete has a goal to go to a high level, this is going to take a ton of work which can only be recovered from with proper caloric intake and quality of those calories. The more you want to do, the more you'll have to do. It is a BLESSING to be gifted a vision of accomplishing something great, but it comes with a cost. Each level will present a new challenge to take on and overcome. If the individual wants to keep moving forward, that challenge must be taken on and overcome.
The single most important thing is first eating ENOUGH to handle the load physically and more importantly mentally for the athlete. During this past year, a very promising high school freshman we work with ended up in a slump during his sport season. The first thought by his coaches just a few weeks into season was that he is simply doing too much which is correct! But it is also incorrect depending on what the goals of the athlete are. For this athlete, doing less wasn't going to lead him closer to his college athletics goal. By doing less, his work capacity (which dictates his ability to recover from practice and training) would only go down setting him up to actually be in a worse position post season than pre season. We don't have time to stall much less go backwards in sport. Every time we are stuck or go backwards, there are 1000s of other athletes out there that are moving forward to come take the spot at the next level away from that athlete. If the athlete can't do less, what is the solution? For this case, the athlete increased his calories over double what he had been eating. Within 5 days, he was no longer a zombie and was back to normal; happy, motivated, staying awake during the day, ready to do extra work, training hard, and even went on to hit a new vertical jump PR before heading into the state tournament exactly like he was told would happen if he stuck to the plan. As a bonus, he also lead his team in scoring in the state tournament as a freshman. This wasn't some crazy thing that he was tasked with; he simply ate 5 times/day instead of 2-3 times/day.
So what exactly do I need to eat? In the case above, again calories were the BIGGEST thing to keep the athlete going. Is that the only that that matters? No. In life, we go from learning easy things like how to write our name to learning how to write a summary. Nutrition can be seen the same way. After you master one "grade level", the next grade level gets a little more complex. If an athlete is already eating plenty (which is less common than we think), the quality starts to matter. The less processed the food in this case, the better. This will help keep inflammation levels low so that the body can recover quickly. The faster recovery happens, the more the individual can do and recover from. The more they can do, the better they'll get. To reach the pinnacle of performance, this is a must. To be a good athlete in western Oklahoma, this isn't a requirement. Your habits will eventually make or break you which is why we recommend athletes start working on their nutritional habits at an early age with the help and support of their family. The later on it gets, the harder it gets to make changes as life stress is often lowest in the parents home. Meat, rice, fruit, potatoes, veggies, eggs, fruit juice, and nuts should make up the majority of the athlete's diet. Is that harder to do than just grab packaged food? Absolutely which is exactly why very few do it. It's crowded at the bottom. When the athlete starts to feel abnormal feeling like nobody around them is doing what they are doing, they are most likely headed in the right direction. There is plenty of room at the top.
The most loving thing a parent can do is ensure the athlete is adequately fueled. This usually requires sacrifice on the parents part as they are the ones cooking the meals. Just this one thing alone will cure many of the disease we see so common in the household in America today. In order eat plenty, 5 times/day. Once we eat plenty, adjust what we are eating to better quality foods to continue progressing. Prepare for liftoff as the athlete achieves a surge of serotonin from the process it takes to make this all happen.