Wierman shares tips for proper nutrition with student-athletes

By Nick LaRosa
March 25, 2012

Tim Wierman’s “Eat to Compete” program, which came to Cabrini on Tuesday, March 20, provided student-athletes with tips on healthy eating, staying hydrated and post-game recovery. Wierman, president of nutritional educational services, has traveled around the country to share the program with over 250 clinics, high schools and colleges since the mid 1990s.

The “Eat to Compete” program contains 18 different sections, four of which are referred to as the “fundamentals of sports nutrition” by Wierman. The four key components of sports nutrition are seen as fuel for the athlete, pregame meals, recovery and hydration.

“Nutrition can play a big role in the outcome of your particular competition or season,” Wierman said. “It doesn’t matter at what level you train and compete. We’re all out there trying to achieve the same things: to improve our game, to improve our performance, to maintain our health and hopefully come out with a win on top.”

The idea of fuel for the athlete revolves around what foods an athlete takes in on a daily basis, as well as how much they are taking in. Depending on the sex of the athlete and the sport being played, that number can vary.

“Our needs are different relevant to gender, relevant to size, the volume of training,” Wierman said. “All of these things come into play to determine how much fuel [an athlete needs] each day.”

The three main types of fuels are carbohydrates, proteins and fats and all three are needed to maintain proper health. Out of the three, Wierman says that calories are the “gasoline for the working muscles.”

“The amount of calories that you need each day are relevant to gender, to body size and type, to the number of times that you train and compete and the duration of that training,” Wierman said.

With calories, many athletes focus on adding more calories to their diet to gain weight and cutting out calories to slim down. However, it is not that simple.

“A lot of athletes, when trying to lose weight or gain weight, don’t have a clue as to what they’re consuming,” Wierman said. “The bathroom scale doesn’t factor in bone density, muscle mass, how hydrated or dehydrated you are, none of those things, which all come into play for us athletes.”

For pregame meals, the second key topic, student-athletes should pick foods that are both healthy and enjoyable. The decision as to what to eat may also depend on the student’s meal plan and what foods are available to them.

“There’s not any one perfect food, it’s really dependent on what you like,” Wierman said. “You have to find foods that satisfy you in terms of taste and also help you improve performance when you’re out there on the field or on the court.”

Moving on to recovery, the point that Wierman believes is the most important, it is imperative for athletes to train and eat well not only before games but also consistently during the course of an average week. Recovery also ties into hydration and an athlete’s ability to take in at least four liters of fluid everyday.

“A lot of athletes don’t pay attention to recovery,” Wierman said. “They focus on the three, four hours before game time and try to eat that perfect meal. It’s a lot bigger than that. It’s that constant refueling after one workout, after lifting, whatever you’re doing that’s going to dictate your performance.”

With both recovery and hydration, it is important to be aware of caffeine and alcohol intake, two things that often have negative effects on an athlete’s body. Athletes are also told to stay away from energy drinks and protein shakes, yet should always have sports drinks handy during a game. According to Wierman, sports drinks, in line with proper hydration, should be consumed 30 to 60 minutes before a game and in 15-minute intervals during a game.

Wierman explained that for students with hectic schedules, snacking five to six times per day is effective and also debunked the theory that eating before bed was bad. He believes a late-night snack can actually help fuel an athlete, provided that the food is something healthy like a bowl or two of cereal, not fast food.

If you missed Wierman’s presentation in the Widener Lecture Hall, please visit www.eattocompete.com for more information.

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Nick LaRosa

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