In-Season Nutrition: 4 reasons why your performance will decline over the season and how to prevent them from happening.
Like clockwork, two weeks into every season I receive a handful of calls, texts, and emails from athletes freaking out about losing weight too quickly and as a result being concerned about their on field performance. 4 out of 5 times this problem arises from solid athletes who have great off-season work ethics and even better nutrition habits. So what’s the problem? PLANNING, consistency is key.
Common In-Season Nutrition Problems and Misconceptions
- Pre-conceived notions about energy output. Convincing yourself that because you are more active (3 hours of practice/games 5 or 6 days week) so you can cheat on your diet and get away with it. Wrong, you are eating for performance. This the absolute worst time for you to eat like shit. This is reason #1 why athletes lose 5-10 lbs every season and get fatter.
- Failing to routinely eat a quality pre-practice/pre-game snack. Eating lunch somewhere between 11-12pm may get you to the 3pm practice but, whether you realize it or not, your body will definitely be slowing down halfway into that game or practice as glycogen stores are depleted and energy is diminished.
- Weekend Nutrition. Staying out late, sleeping in, and missing meals. Most high school and college athletes will sleep in to 12,1,or even 2pm and miss breakfast. Probably will get a sub or chipotle a couple hours after waking up then wait until 7 or 8pm to eat dinner. This adds up to 4-6 MISSED eating times in a week, this is a big deal.
- Little to No In-Season Strength Training. It’s not until athletes reach college until they realize the importance of in-season strength training. It’s extremely important for you to maintain a 1 to 2x week training program throughout your season. These workouts don’t need to be arduous nor demanding. They need to be efficient and focused on specific results. For more information, check out this link for a Guide to In-Season Training.
In regards to nutrient timing and recovery, the off-season training schedule is usually consistent and therefor it is easier to maintain a quality nutrition program. Then tryouts, pre-season camp, pre-season tournaments and jamborees happen aaaand “consistency” gets flushed down the toilet along with your weight, energy, and even skill. It’s a vicious cycle of failed preparation and “not enough time to…” ending in lackluster nutrition habits (grab and go packaged snacks, fast food, or even missed eating times). Have the foresight to analyze your game/practice schedule and breakdown YOUR eating schedule to 3 categories: After school practice/games, Evening practice/games, and rest days. There should be NO difference in the way you eat on practice days or games days. Eating healthy is a lifestyle not a short term habit, be proactive.
Sample Meal Plan (After School Practice/Game)
*Note: Meal plans should be modified based on age, gender, body type, allergies, sensitivities, etc.
6:30 Breakfast: (within 30minutes of waking up) GOAL: 25g of protein
Option 1: Omelet: 3 eggs with chopped vegetables(1cup), 1 slice ham and 1 slice cheese. Oatmeal/wheat toast/bagel (1 spoon of nut butter)
Option 2: Protein Shake (8oz milk, 1 yogurt, 1-2 scoops of almond/peanut butter, 1-2 servings of fruit, whey protein.) **Disclaimer: REAL FOOD IS ALWAYS BETTER**
9am Snack: 1 cup of trail-mix and 1 yogurt
12pm Lunch: 6-8oz of meat (chicken, fish, beef) 1 serving vegetables, 1 carb
2:15 Pre-Practice/Game Snack: PBJ, Apple
6:15 Post-Practice/Game Snack: 20oz of water or Organic fruit juice, 30g whey protein, 2 servings of fruit
7:00 Dinner: 6-8oz of lean meat (fish, chicken, beef) 1 cup veggie, 1-2cup carb
Snack 3: 2 tbsp of Almond Butter on Celery Sticks (2), 1 tbsp of flax oil
Every Day Goals
- Prepare meals and snacks in advance
- 120 oz water Minimum
- Multivitamin every morning (fish oil, Vitamin D also work great)
Do yourself a favor, take 15 minutes a day and prepare your meals and snacks. This can be done before you go to bed or before school, whatever is easiest for you. A consistent nutrition program will keep you stronger and healthier throughout the season and ultimately prevent burn out or decreased performance.
Best of luck this season, keep grinding.
Joe Drain CSCS Pn1
Strength Coach, Nutrition Coach