Athletes and Nutrition

Article by: DeeDee Aeschliman

The key to an athlete’s success lies in a culmination of his training and eating habits.  Although athletes at ISM are put under gruesome physical training, little emphasis is placed on their nutrition and dietary needs.  Essentially, it is up to the athletes themselves to keep track of their own bodies.

“To be honest, I don’t really care about what I eat,” admits unabashedly varsity badminton player Dong Yun. “I mean you only live once, might as well enjoy it while you can.” For many people, food is not just a basic necessity but is also a recreational hobby and a form of personal leisure.  Unfortunately, sometimes the food that tastes the best is the worst.  But to what extent does junk food actually affect athletic performance?  And should athletes be expected to sacrifice the pleasures of McDonald’s or Jollibee?

Nathan certainly believes so.  “I always watch what I eat,” the basketball player remarks. “I have a diet and even try my best to plan the food that I eat, earlier on in the day.”  Nathan proclaims that although he is not “really strict with protein count”, he does put in significant effort to eat “real foods” and “balanced meals” in “today’s industrial food craze where natural and organic foods are less popular”.  Nathan believes that simple things make big differences, and replaces “fried oily foods” for “grilled, baked, and steamed foods”.  Furthermore Nathan exclaims that he loves eating vegetables and fruits because it gives him that “extra energy” as well as that extra glow as it provides “hydration for the skin”.

Other athletes, like cross-country and track runner Christine, have taken a moderate stance.  “I don’t have a diet,” states Christin.  “But I do avoid junk food because I know it works against me staying fit.”  Like Nathan, Christine is clearly aware that junk food is calorie-dense and nutrient poor.  Consuming trans-fat, saturated fats, and processed food is associated with fatigue, weakness, and depression; factors which are definitely not an athlete’s best friend.

But junk food is not the only food that actually tastes good! Tennis player Will offers healthier alternatives that are tasty, relatively healthy, and capable of providing the energy needed to engage in physical exercise.  “I think pasta is great,” Will shares. “It gets me through long afternoon sport practices and late night study sessions.”

Overall, freedom of choice permits athletes to eat whatever they want.  We can learn to indulge like Dong Yun, to stay conscientious like Nathan, or be relaxed like Christine.  Ultimately, what is most important is that we maintain a healthy relationship with food.