The phrase “food is fuel” has become a staple when speaking about nutrition, and that’s because it’s true. Read below to find out more about how poor nutrition is hindering your progress in cheerleading.
Just a note before we begin. First and foremost, the most important thing is to eat and drink. If your option is a burger or nothing for lunch, always take eating something especially if your days are long (as most cheerleaders are). I and many other fitness professionals will never recommend starving yourself in pursuit of a particular body type or higher athletic performance because it just doesn’t work.
The training and conditioning a cheerleader is required to do in order to compete at a high level requires huge amounts of energy. These come from our food in the form of carbohydrates, fats and protein. Or simply, food is fuel. You wouldn’t expect a car with no fuel to start, so we shouldn’t expect our bodies to be working at peak performance when we’re not eating right.
Our performance progresses by slowly stressing our bodies and then allowing them to recover. You’ll be familiar with this from the sore muscles the morning after training. We need food, particularly carbohydrates and protein in order to fuel recovery from the micro-damage caused by exercise. If you’re not fuelling after your workout, your recovery time can be elongated by days or even weeks. This stress accumulates, you won’t be able to perform at 100% and overtime you’ll be more prone to overuse injuries.
If you miss one meal after working out or have one or two cheeky drive-thru meals, by no means are you going to be hurting yourself in the long run. This becomes an issue when you are making eating badly a habit.
A poor diet could result in:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Depression or Eating Disorders
So, where is a good place to start?
Every athlete requires slightly different diet and each part of the season requires a tweaked diet. At the beginning of the season/summer training you’ll likely be training less frequently but will be focusing on packing on strength for new skills. So you’d focus on getting in high quality proteins and calorie control in order for your weight not to fluctuate too much. As you move into training more frequently in the run up to competition, you’ll need more carbohydrates for energy and high quality proteins to make sure you’re recovering effectively.
A basic place to start for understanding how much you need to be putting in protein wise, is 1-1.5g of protein per lb of bodyweight. For example, I weigh roughly 50kg (or 8st) so 110lbs. I prefer eating as much protein as possible due to my strength training regiment so I’ll opt for 1.5g of protein. 110 x 1.5 = 165g. I put together (above) some healthy high protein options for you to get a bit of a grasp of how much you should be eating. Having enough protein in your diet is so important! The body uses protein to build and repair tissues, it is also used to build other important things such as body chemicals (hormones, enzymes etc.).
What about carbohydrates you ask? Carbs have this horrible rep of being bad for you. It’s not true. Carbohydrates are required in the body to produce glucose which is the bodies main source of energy. Of course, some carbs are bad, I like to call these “empty carbs”. By that I mean they provide very little in terms of nutritional value. To get the most long-term energy and nutrients out of carbs, you should generally be aiming to eat “complex carbs”. Which means that their molecules are made up of long complex chains. On the other end of the spectrum is “simple carbs” which aren’t always bad! But generally include more refined sugars and empty carbs than the complex end of the spectrum. But for the sake of keeping it simple, I put together a little collage of some great complex carbs.
This barely even begins to scratch the surface of nutrition for athletes. I’ll definitely be making some more posts, so stay tuned and subscribe ❤
Lots of Love,