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Sports nutrition helps student athletes enhance performance

After wrapping up her last lap on the track on a sunny afternoon, senior Allie Difede walks over to a long table of food topped with salad, pasta, fruit and dessert. Difede and her teammates gather around the table to commence their team dinner in preparation for the meet, the following day.

According to Difede, enjoying a large meal before a cross country meet helps her enhance her performance as an athlete.

“I noticed that the team dinners really give me more energy to help me perform my best the day after,” Difede said.

According to Athletic Trainer Justine Longi, team dinners play a significant role in team bonding and preparing athletes for a meet.

“Getting adequate food before a big game and carbo loading makes sure that you have enough energy stored for the next day,” Longi said.

Difede also said her coach constantly emphasizes the importance of a balanced diet, which influences the team’s ability to maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout the season. 

“Our coach stressed the importance of a well-balanced diet so that we can not only improve our athletic performance, but also help others understand the importance of nutrition in supporting our performance,” Difede said. “It also helps others understand what a healthy relationship with food can look like.”

According to Longi, understanding the importance of nutrition in athletics is essential because it ensures that athletes are performing their sport at a healthy energy level. 

“You have to make sure your body is supplemented with enough calories and everything you need to sustain the activity of your sport,” Longi said. “When you put energy out you have to make it up in calories, fats, proteins and carbs to keep your body running.” 

Additionally, Longi said students can fail to succeed in their sport if they are not following a well balanced diet. 

The worst case scenario is that you have athletes who are malnutritioned,” Longi said. “It causes their body to deteriorate which means they won’t be able to perform at the best of their ability.”

Difede said that if she skips consuming certain nutrients before a race, she will feel worse.

“I may start to notice that I am feeling more fatigued than usual,” Difede said. “Overall I think this makes it even more difficult to keep up with the pace, or the rest of the team, especially during meets.”

In addition to the lack of understanding surrounding proper nutrition for athletic performance, Longi said it is challenging for students to ensure they are getting the right nutrition before a practice or a game because school may interfere with proper timing. 

“With school comes the problems of either not being able to eat before practice or eating too early in advance before a practice or game, which may be a couple hours after school,” Longi said. “Students usually forget to eat bars, fruits and other healthy snacks before the game because they don’t have enough time.”

Longi added that if students are looking to improve their nutrition, they should avoid eating foods that are processed

“Staying away from processed foods can be hard,” Longi said. “But if you don’t know what foods to eat, there are resources that give you options for healthy switches. But definitely shoot for a more well rounded meal versus things like chips and soda.”


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