USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the recruiting process. This isn’t about where just the top five-star athletes are headed but rather a guide to the process and the pitfalls for student-athletes nationwide from Playced.com. This week’s article is written by Ross Hawley, the president of the company. Playced.com identifies appropriate colleges for potential recruits and delivers an online DIY college planning experience for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.
So much goes into being the best athlete you can be. From the hours of skill practice to the constant quest of becoming bigger, stronger and faster, being a prideful athlete is a flat-out lifestyle. Take a step back quickly to think about exactly what it is you are doing to become great. All the sacrifices. All the effort. All the blood, sweat and tears. Now ask yourself, is your diet a part of that equation? It better be.
This week I had the pleasure of speaking with nationally renowned sports performance nutritionist and registered dietician, Glen Tobias. With a Master’s Degree in Clinical Nutrition and 21 years of experience, Mr. Tobias works with teams and individuals ranging from professional athletes to elementary school students. Most recently, he has served as the team nutritionist for the New York Jets and as the nutritionist for Manhattan Sports Medicine in New York City.
Here is his take on the role of diet and nutrition in an athlete’s life.
Q: What role does proper nutrition play in an athlete’s performance?
A: You can’t race a car without putting racing gas in the tank! So in terms of the role nutrition plays that really depends on how well the athlete wants to perform. An athlete should not expect optimum physical performance with anything less than optimum fuel or nutrition. Quite simply, the energy you put into your body will be the energy you get out of your body. Every nutritional decision you make, good or bad, will affect how you perform.
Q: How can proper nutrition affect an athlete’s daily life, outside of their sport?
A: Keeping your blood sugars stable throughout the day is something I work with my clients on regularly because it is a huge factor in quality energy output. With a proper diet, these athletes can expect better test scores, more alertness and better overall moods. Without question, you will be able to perform each task with greater energy and efficiency when you make healthy decisions. Listen, being an athlete requires a lot of energy, not just on the field. If you are wanting to achieve your best results in all aspects of life, nutrition is key.
Q: What age should young athlete’s mix proper diet into their training regimen?
A: When they become athletes! Or more specifically, when they start eating! You are not going to get a whole lot out of your body by fueling it with Twinkies. The human body is capable of amazing things. The quicker you realize that, the better life you will live.
Q: What are some dietary principles for an athlete to live by?
A: You have to learn to make better “bad” food choices. The reality is there is no such thing as a “bad” food. The choices we make when we eat just need to become better. There is always a better choice to make, but just because you want to eat pizza or ice cream, that doesn’t make you bad. Don’t think of yourself as being bad when you are eating those kinds of things. Just learn to make a better choice. Maybe have one slice instead of two! The principle these athletes should live by should be to make that better choice.
Q: What would you tell a high school athlete that doesn’t take their diet seriously?
A: Nothing. That means that athlete doesn’t take their sport as seriously as they think they do. My job as a sports performance nutritionist is to focus on the “energy in”, not the “energy out” and the “energy out” coach can only get out of you what the “energy in” coach puts into you. There is always somebody out there who is a little bit better than you. My job is to make sure that you beat everybody that is of equal and slightly greater skillset than you because you will be able to outlast them. Proper nutrition and diet creates that separation and is absolutely a competitive advantage. Games aren’t won in the 1st quarter when everybody is performing with their peak energy. Games are decided in the 4th quarter by the athletes that still feel like they are in their 1st quarter.