Generally speaking, athletes don’t sleep enough, athletes don’t eat enough, athletes don’t train enough, and athletes practice too much. This isn’t always true, and yes there are exceptions. However we have seen both first hand as coaches and second hand through our 30+ high school, college, and professional partners, this tends to be the case.
A student athlete is taking 5 classes, all different subjects, different projects, different assignments, different tests. They have a group of friends at school, as well as a group back home they stay in touch with. Parents and siblings that are a part of their life. Practice, film, scouting reports, and playbooks. Training, treatment, Boyfriends or girlfriends, roommates, teachers, and coaches. All of these things are demanding effort and time from the athlete. With all of these demands, there is no reason to make nutrition so complex.
What to do…
That’s it. Is there a difference between complex carbs and simple carbs? Sure. Is it better to get a variety of types of fruits and vegetables? Absolutely. Is there a difference between organic and non organic? Yes. Do most athletes need to be bombarded with this information? No.
Athletes often skip at least one meal a day, eat cereal, drink soda, survive on fast food dollar menus and frozen pizzas. They stay up until three in the morning and drink alcohol. They don’t need to be educated on pasture raised, omega-3s, and probiotics (not yet), they need to eat more real food, more often, and sleep more. Tasking your athletes with tracking what, when, and how much they are currently eating is a great way to start making some significant changes in you athletes nutritional habits. When you find out they are eating only two meals a day, one of which comes from the drive thru, your conversation about simple vs complex carbs becomes a moot point.
Keep It Simple Stupid
We often get accused of over simplifying things and this will probably be no different. Apologies in advance to RDs and Sports Nutritionists who are offended, however most organizations don’t have the TIME or the RESOURCES to dive much deeper. There will be exceptions: athletes who want and crave this information, organizations with resources to educate, implement, and supply simple nutritional strategies (ie color systems) and high quality foods, and perhaps some professional athletes with time and resources to dedicate to elite nutrition.
In these cases, YES, you better know this content or know someone who does. But for the majority of athletes it is best to simplify. Just as we as strength coaches need to simplify our training programs and focus on only what the athlete needs, nutritional recommendations needs to be simplified. Training programs, coaching cues, movement skills, nutrition… Alway start simple. The basics. The fundamentals.