A day in the life of a collegiate student-athlete is very physically and mentally active. Studying, participating in meetings, classroom lectures, practice, rehabilitation, and training are all part of a busy daily schedule. These factors, combined with the elevated metabolisms of active young adults, equates to high nutritional demands. Without adequate nutrition, these student-athletes will experience a decrease in performance across all areas. The University of Wyoming understands these demands and is dedicated to providing nutritional support that allows every student-athlete to be successful on and off the field.
When educating student-athletes and designing meal plans, an individualized approach is used to ensure all nutritional needs are met. The primary factors considered when addressing nutritional needs are: height, weight, age, and sex. Other factors include: type of sport, primary energy source, energy expenditure during active days and non-active days, hydration, supplement use, strategic nutrient timing, food allergies and intolerances, injury and rehabilitation, and medical nutrition therapy. Education and meal plans are catered towards the needs of the student-athlete and his or her respective sport based on these factors.
At the University of Wyoming, a three step process is used to educate student-athletes on using nutrition optimally to enhance performance in the classroom and on the field of play.
Step 1: Fruits, Vegetables, & Healthy Oils
Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins and minerals which aid in many important metabolic processes such as, carbohydrate metabolism and protein synthesis (muscle building). Fruits and vegetables are also rich in powerful antioxidants. These antioxidants eliminate free radicals which are an unwanted by-product of exercise. Free radicals are responsible for soreness and inflammation which causes a prolonged recovery time. When choosing fruits and vegetables think "color." This strategy ensures a wide variety of antioxidants which eliminate free radicals and decrease recovery time. The antioxidants also support a healthy immune system to prevent illnesses. A decrease in recovery time along with a healthy immune system gives you the edge over your opponent.
Fruit and Vegetable choices: Think "color," the more color, the better.
Healthy oils like omega-3's and Vitamin E provide essential fats that can be utilized as fuel. These healthy fats also act as anti-inflammatories and aid brain development.
Healthy oils: Fish, avocado, oil based dressings, nuts, olive or canola or flax oils
Step 2: Carbohydrates, Starches, and Fibers
Carbohydrates & starches are the energy rich foods that provide the primary fuel source for high intensity activities. Consuming adequate amounts of Step 2 foods ensures a full gas tank during training and competition. It is important to adjust carbs and starches with activity level to maintain weight and energy levels. Eating fiber-rich foods aids in keeping a healthy digestive tract.
High-fiber carbohydrate choices: Whole-grain breads, rice, pasta, cereal, grains, bagels, bananasHigh-fiber starch choices: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, corn, beans, quinoa
Step 3: Protein
Protein is necessary to maintain or gain muscle mass, otherwise known as lean mass. Consuming high-quality protein consistently, throughout the day and post-workout helps protect lean mass. For optimum recovery post-workout and post-competition consume 20-30g of a high quality protein with a carbohydrate source within 30 minutes. Protein at this time helps repair and rebuild muscle damaged from exercise.
When building a meal or snack, be sure to include foods from each of 3 steps as they all play an important role in performing optimally to gain the edge over your opponent.