Lifestyle & Health

The ‘foodie’ athlete



An article in Men’s Health once claimed, Michael Phelps often eats three cheesy fried egg sandwiches, lettuce, mayonnaise, fried onions, two cups of coffee, a bowl of grits and last but not least, three chocolatey chip pancakes to top it off.

Olympic swimmer Phelps has since debunked the rumour on a Facebook live session last year with a statement that the crazy diet was in fact, a myth, however, he did admit that he eats what he pleases-healthy or junk in moderation.

This begs the question, what is an athletic diet? Some may think dieting is part of being an athlete, however, 20-year-old first year child and youth Fleming student, Mark Pereira, says dieting at first was no easy task, especially with his go-to snack-chocolate chip muffins.

“In the beginning, it was super hard. And even still it’s hard not to act on cheat days from time to time,” says Pereira.

However, the basketball player says it’s more of a mental factor when it comes to working out and dieting.

Gariba Ibrahim, fitness trainer for the City of Mississauga, says the challenges of working with athletes varies depending on the sports they play or what their goals are.

He says, “Not a lot of people adhere to the program right off the bat. It’s a lot of mixing and matching in terms of food selection and the right workouts.”

It’s making sure his clients know there is a life after a test or workout, so keeping up with a healthy lifestyle becomes easier.

“Maintenance starts with your desire to take care of yourself, you have to want it.”

“Once you start making it a daily routine, it gets easier,” says Ibrahim. “Three days out the week, I’ll take in just protein. The other days, it’s just protein and carbs.”

Dr. Joel Kerr, sports chiropractor, agrees.

“Food acts as fuel for our body.” He compares our bodies to a luxury car and when he hears someone saying that they can eat whatever they want and it doesn’t affect their play, He says, “I’ll be honest with you, I don’t think that he’s truthful (Phelps), because if you consume a diet that is heavily based off of fat, salt, sugar and no water, our bodies will have effects. Our muscles need nutrients to perform.”

Kerr says he definitely does not believe in dieting as he feels it should just be a lifestyle.

“Back in the day, they used to have these crazy carb diets. It’s nonsense. You don’t eat a diet; you simply eat healthy foods: green vegetables, higher cut meat and low fat products,” he says.

Humber varsity basketball player, Stephanie Antwi, says it is sometimes harder for her to play when she is without a diet.

“I feel like I should follow a strict diet but it’s actually very hard and it’s time consuming which is also why I don’t do it as much,” says Antwi.

Although she loves food from Wendy’s, keeping a diet doesn’t necessarily tie in with her having a fuller physique.

She says, “I don’t feel as stressed being a bigger player because I feel it’s actually better to be bigger for my position but it’s important to be mobile as well.”

York University kinesiology and concurrent education student Stacy Austin, says the worst thing she can do as an athlete is eat junk food right before a game.

“I get sluggish, tired, and play nowhere near to my full potential,” says Austin.

  Like Antwi, Austin says she certainly feels the effects of eating fast food and admits there is a setback in her athletic performances.

Dr. Kerr says when it comes to heavier athletes, it’s just a matter of being healthy and checking for medical issues—no real difference from a leaner player.

“We just need to determine health no matter the size. We have to admit something that when someone is overweight, there may be stress on the organs. It could be hormonal. We need to make sure for example, thyroid levels are where they need to be.”

Brandon Halliburton, a basketball player in his first year of emergency services at Durham College says eating healthy is crucial to be the best player you can be, but it can get expensive.

“One box of chicken or fish can add up to $16 for the week. You could get one meal that’s really expensive, but to keep that up every single day is a challenge,” says Halliburton.

Coach Julian Carr of Centennial College soccer says he tries to get his players to make healthy choices prior to a game whether it’s bananas or chewy bars and proper liquids.

“We are a society—especially in North America–that mass consumes sugar. Most things are genetically engineered. The main thing is, just define what works for you. Fast food is a great pick-me-up, but in the long run it’s just empty calories.”

Carr says if you don’t eat right, you simply cannot perform well during the day, let alone during a game.

“A lot of students aren’t taught to eat properly. After grade nine, you don’t have to physical education and it’s the reason why Canada is not too far behind the States for obesity,” Carr says. According to a sports nutrition article on Eat Right Ontario, most athletes should aim for a lower fat diet and eat more carbohydrates for fuel and protein, for muscle growth and repair.

Each expert recognizes that it can be difficult, especially for students, to make healthy eating choices all the time. One thing they all agree on is stay in moderation but everybody deserves a cheat day.

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