Every fall, I work with athletes brand new to me - whether at the college I consult with, the young Olympic hopefuls I work with or in my personal practice of athletes both young and seasoned. And while there are so many different things I teach depending on the need, at the core there are a few things I wish my athletes knew, that I aim to teach my athletes and that I hope my athletes truly believe.
1. There is no one-size fits all
I, too, wish that nutrition was black and white. I wish I could recommend one pre-workout snack and have it work amazingly for every athlete. That simply is not the case. So, when I recommend 6 different pre-workout fueling options, I hope you understand that we are simply trying to find the best one that works for YOU. And just because Suzie down the street eats this or doesn't eat that, this doesn't mean it is the right choice for you. Lets find that right choice together, for your body type, goals, phase of training, food preferences, medical history, gender and age using as much of the science as possible.
2. What you eat really DOES matter
Yes, well-planned eating really is that important. Yes, vegetables really are that important. No, it really isn't that difficult to eat fresh and "healthy," given a certain level of commitment. A level equivalent to what you give your daily workouts. I hear you that you didn't grow up eating this way or that the thought of that food makes you gag. All I can do is encourage you and remind you that the athlete with the best diet will always succeed over the one of equal talent with a crappy diet.
3. There is a reason a fad diet is called a fad
It sounds so ideal, right? A diet where you only cut out these 23 things and all of your dreams come true! Every diet works the same way: it creates a calorie deficit. Whether one diet cuts out one food group or another cuts out another food group. They all have the same end: calorie deficit = weight loss. Unfortunately, many often end up gaining most of that weight back when the unrealistic diet becomes too much for "real life." Can you eat everything you want to and still lose weight? Yup. Is that much more difficult, causing you to address perhaps some long-standing issues with food and eating and/or paying closer attention to hunger and satiety signals? Most likely. But the result is a success that is far more long-term than any fad diet.
4. Those pills and powder are almost always a waste of money
There is a reason I don't sell any supplements. In most cases, they are a scam. There, I said it. A lucrative scam, but a scam nonetheless. I don't care how "pure", "organic" or "natural" your supplement claims to be. Even the best product can be a waste of money if it is either not effective or not necessary for the individual taking it. Except in cases of medical deficiency (and maybe convenience), for most people real food is all you need.
5. I have no agenda for how you eat...as long as it is performance-enhancing
This is no lie. It matters little if you choose to be vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free or perhaps organic, free-range or grass-fed only. Any eating style can be done very well or horribly wrong. I'm not here to change your emotional (ethical) connection with food. My job is to teach you how to fuel well after your decision has been made. Might there be several negatives to the fueling pattern you have chosen? It can't be argued that any time several food groups are cut out, the difficulty of fueling increases. But, that doesn't make it impossible. It just means you have to work a little harder. In my experience, the athlete truly committed to their choice of eating style is willing to do that.
While this isn't everything I wish athletes knew, it is a good solid start. I hope it is enlightening for you to get in my head a little and hear what I "really think."
Your Nutrition Coach,