Nutrition is a critical part of athlete development and success. In this day and age of technology one can find an endless source of information on nutrition. The tricky part is knowing what to believe, knowing how to extract useful info, and knowing when to simply ignore a point of view.
What to believe…
Use common sense and your natural intuition. A diet program that promises muscle gain within 4 weeks, a reduction of 10% body fat, and better stamina may have some truth, but there’s more to be considered. What might not have been included in the ad is that the person undergoing this transformation may be a 24 year old former world class athlete who was already predisposed to a high level of fitness. That person may have fallen off the fitness / health wagon for a year or two and gained some weight. A 4 week plan jump starts their healthy lifestyle without much effort. The next person, by contrast, may have struggled with weight their entire life, is close to age 40 and never played sports as a child. Same program, two different subjects, most likely two different outcomes.
How to extract useful info…
Once again, use common sense. Using the same diet plan listed above you might find one of the areas listed under this plan is to make better food choices. Less fatty foods. More fruits and veggies. Stay away from sugary drinks. That’s straightforward and fairly easy to follow. If the above plan also calls for running 3 miles every day then common sense would warrant assessing the running aspect of this diet plan. For someone who already runs daily this might not be an issue. For someone with bad knees, running is a no brainer. Don’t do it.
What to ignore…
If the initial reaction is to run as fast as possible away from something, then run like Forest Gump! If all your instincts suggest something goes against everything you’ve been taught then listen to your instincts.
At FAST, we will offer advice and suggestions when warranted, otherwise our basic assumption is that every parent is making smart, proven decisions for the nutritional needs of their children. When something seems a little off we will ask questions. As an example, an athlete who is usually sharp, upbeat, and focused but has a slow day in practice is never a cause for alarm. Typically it’s just a tired kid. Went to bed late, maybe got up late and skipped breakfast. Or a pet may have been recently been put down, etc. If the situation prevails, however, and lasts for several days or more we will have reason for concern and will meet with parents to see if anything is amiss.
As a matter of daily athlete development we will talk about nutrition with athletes, as a group and individually, when necessary, and give our athletes the tools, the information, and the skills to make sound choices that will enhance what they do in the pool.
A great start is the nutrition section of the USA Swimming web page. As we come across articles of nutritional interest we will pass them on either via email or by posting to our web page.