Dining Out for Athletes

The season of hard work is winding down. Hopefully you are resting more and fine-tuning details to help you swim as fast as possible during the upcoming Championship Meets. Yet, all of your hard work can be wasted if you don’t properly fuel your body for performance during your meet!  Listed below are a few things to consider:

  • Plan your menu now. Write down (or make a list on your phone) where and what you plan to eat. This will save time and help you fuel properly. Think through this carefully-some of you will have 11 meals out.
    • Thursday Lunch, Thursday Dinner
    • Friday Breakfast, Friday Lunch, Friday Dinner 
    • Saturday Breakfast, Saturday Lunch, Saturday Dinner
    • Sunday Breakfast, Sunday Lunch, Sunday Dinner
  • Aim to include bright colors (fruits and vegetables) with every meal. These contain vitamins and minerals that help you perform at the highest level.
  • Pre competition meals should be relatively low in fat and protein. Focus on carbohydrates which will give you energy. Your plate should consist of 50% carbs, 25% lean protein, 25% veggies, plus fruit and healthy fat (1-2 tablespoons healthy fats such as avocado, olive oil)
      • Breakfast examples: Whole Grain toast, nut butter, banana, berries and/or apple sauce. Yogurt with granola and berries. Oatmeal with berries or dried fruit. 
      • Lunch examples: Sandwich with whole wheat bread, lean meat, greens of choice, tomato, plus carrots, grapes and apple slices.
      • Dinner examples: Quinoa/Rice Bowl with chicken or salmon, choice veggies and fruit. Whole wheat pasta with meat sauce and salad. Salad with lean meat and choice fruits/veggies, baked potato, whole grain bread. 
  • Think ahead. If you grab a sandwich for lunch, order two. Save one for a snack before finals or even lunch the following day. You can rest more if you aren’t spending extra time eating out. Grab fresh fruits and veggies for your hotel room to supplement when dining out.
  • Order water for your beverage. Sodium content is often much greater when dining out. Get a refill of water to-go for extra hydration.
  • Avoid high-fiber foods such as broccoli, beans or high fiber cereals which may take longer to digest and can cause upset stomach. Avoid high fat content such as fried foods, ice cream, nuts and excess cheese. Avoid sugary drinks. 
  • Never try new foods during a meet. 
  • Huntsville Restaurants (near the pool) with healthy options:  


Alternatives to Gatorade Energy Chews

SO MANY athletes and parents of athletes ask me about Gatorade Energy Chews. 

Below are several reasons to consider another option.

On a regular basis, the best snacks for athletes are the ones with the fewest ingredients and highest nutritional value. (Gatorade Chews pack in 14 ingredients.) It is important to be aware of what we are eating and why.  Consuming carbohydrates helps to replenish the glycogen (stored energy) in our muscles.

Gatorade Chews work well for ultra-endurance type sports competitions because they are small, travel easily, and can be consumed on the run. For a young athlete with events under 20 minutes, and usually much less, there are better options. 

I suggest experimenting with whole foods for overall excellent nutritional benefits and optimal performance. 

With the options below, athletes can meet energy requirements and gain the additional benefits from phytonutrients, (which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties) vitamins, and minerals which also aid in recovery.


The best time to try out performance snacks is before and during practice, several days or weeks before a meet. Make sure your choices work well with your digestive system, which can take several days to adjust. If you already have a system in place that works, stick to it and only try new items one at a time.

If you like the chewy substance of Gatorade chews, but are seeking a more nutritious option, fruit leathers are a good choice and offer 12 grams of carbs without added sugar.  

Applesauce is often easier to digest than a whole apple and will give you 14 grams of carbs. 

Freeze dried fruits are also good options, especially if you like tart flavors.  These offer 30 grams of carbs without added sugar.

Fresh fruit is easy to munch on and provides some extra hydration benefits.  A cup of fresh watermelon gives you 12 grams and pineapple is closer to 22 grams of carbs.  

Berries (14 grams/cup) and kiwi (10 grams of carbs)! 

Timing is everything.  

When possible, ingest your meet snacks about 30 minutes-1 hour before each event.  Again, practice this timing during your workout sessions rather than at meets.  

Remember to hydrate. A sports drink can help meet your carbohydrate requirements, especially if you have trouble eating due to nerves.  Small sips are best and be sure to allow time for restroom breaks.  

Your snacking success at meets is often dependent on your caloric intake throughout the day and even the week leading up to the meet. Therefore, it's extremely important to maintain proper caloric and carbohydrate intake each day to ensure adequate glycogen maintenance and replenishment.  

Let me know if you have any questions!
~Coach Marli


Sports Nutrition for the Holidays

It's time for gathering with family, friends and food! The very best time of year to stay focused on your health and athletic performance goals. You can enjoy the holidays and keep your body ready for training and competition. 

Below are familiar tips that hopefully will become part of an athletic family's lifestyle. Perfection is not necessary, but consistent, healthy choices add up for the good of the athlete. 
  • Mindful eating. This is so important and simple, yet few of us slow down long enough to "smell the food." Take in the smells and flavors of each bite of food. Think about what you eat as energy that will fuel your next workout and competitions coming up in the near future. Notice how you feel as you eat. If you begin to feel overly full, stop for a moment and decide if you really want (or need) more. Never feel like you have to finish everything on your plate. Most of our typical serving sizes are more than we need. Consider smaller portions and more variety.
  • Maintain excellent hydration. Enjoy a special soda with cheery embellishments, but build a good foundation with regular water intake.  Drink water when you wake up, before, during, and after meals, and certainly surrounding practice times.
  • Offer to bring a healthy item you enjoy to the gathering. Knowing for sure there is something healthy to add to your plate will help dilute the less than healthy options. (see fruit salad below for an idea)
  • Fill 25% of your plate with protein.  Insert turkey!  It will fill you up, repair muscles, aid in recovery, and get you ready for your next practice.  Turkey is loaded with potassium (stabilizes blood sugar, maintains fluid balance and optimizes muscle and nerve function), zinc (builds immunity), niacin/B3 (supports brain function, lowers cholesterol, antioxidant), B12 (prevents anemia, may support bone health, improves mood, and improves the condition of hair, skin and nails). Cover about 50% of your plate with color or as much veggies and fruit as possible! 
  • Enjoy dessert, but don't go overboard.  Remember to eat mindfully and savor each bite.
  • Ignore food pushers. They encourage unplanned eating and make remarks like, "it won't hurt you". Although you can easily get back on track, remind yourself that you are an athlete who works very hard to maintain an athletic, performance-oriented lifestyle and strive to make good choices. You know how much time and effort it takes to be an elite athlete, and who knows, you may be a positive influence on someone else!
  • Take a walk.  Getting steps in before and/or after the big meals will help everyone feel better. Time outside benefits all!  More movement, less germs, greater space in the house...everyone wins!
  • Get back on track with your healthy lifestyle ASAP.  If you splurge on Thursday for lunch, get back to taking care of your athletic energy needs for Thursday dinner. Avoid the mentality of waiting until after the holidays to be healthy.   

Recipe adapted from JuliaSalbum.com

Make it your own!  Try variations like lemon juice and maple syrup, substitute with your favorite fruits, and maybe add poppy seeds, chia seeds, or you whatever else you like.  

~Coach Marli


Healthier Halloween for Athletes

5 Tips for Athletes:

1.  Eat dinner.

Eating a balanced dinner before trick-or-treating is super important and probably the best thing you can do to promote an athlete's health on Halloween. Choose lean protein (beef, chicken, fish, eggs, etc.), healthy carbs (quinoa, potatoes, rice, whole grain pasta), and colorful veggies and fruits (broccoli, spinach, kale, peppers, berries, apples, bananas) to insure full bellies while trick-or-treating.  If you don't have time for dinner, blend up a quick smoothie.

2.  Limit Restrictions.

Enjoy the candy within reason.  Athletes may want to choose a couple pieces of candy to have with each meal and snack during the first several days after Halloween.  This will keep it fun without overdoing it.  Making a big deal out of restrictions may lead to future issues with sweets. What if your athlete wants to eat all of the candy at once? This provides a huge life lesson opportunity, with natural consequences.   Use this time to teach rather than judge. *However, if you have a meet/performance the day after Halloween, I suggest not eating all the candy at once!  

3. Consider daily sugar intake recommendations.  

Keep in mind that we should all limit our sugar consumption to less than 10% of total energy intake.  Furthermore, when we keep added sugars below 5% (25 grams or 6 tsp) per day, we are providing an even greater increase of health benefits. Along with candy, include healthy options when possible. Most serious athletes understand that added sugar does not help them reach high performance goals.  They are typically more than willing to eat a nutritious meal or snack when given the opportunity.  Here are 50 + Healthy and Festive Halloween Ideas.  Also check out Nutritious Snacks for Athletes and Sugar Consumption and the Athlete for additional information.

4. Eat candy thoughtfully.  

Try unwrapping the candy slowly, or make a game out of how intact you can keep the wrapper as you remove the candy.  Describe a costume you saw while trick-or-treating or favorite house decorations between each piece of candy you eat.  Savor and enjoy each bite. Chew it slowly and notice the taste, texture and how you feel as you eat it. Usually, when extra time is taken, we are more in tune with hunger and fullness. 

5.  Focus on Halloween-themed fun.  

There are plenty of fun things to do on Halloween.  Pumpkin carving, spooky games, face painting, and dressing up can help dilute the focus on sweets.  For teen athletes, consider meeting up with friends at a coffee or donut shop.  Enjoy a one-time indulgence with friends and then move on with keeping that athletic lifestyle.  

I hope everyone enjoys Halloween with family and friends!

~Coach Marli