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Steady diets proving to be vital for North Texas athletes

Steady diets proving to be vital for North Texas athletes

Matt Brown | Senior Staff Photographer

Steady diets proving to be vital for North Texas athletes
October 22
03:13 2015

Alex Lessard | Staff Writer

@alexlikechexmix

With early morning workouts, practices, games, classes and tutoring, student athletes are some of the busiest people at North Texas. Through it all, ignoring fast food chains and maintaining a steady diet from restaurants around Denton and on-campus dining halls remains a main priority.

Combining a specific diet with a strenuous training regimen is vital to staying in pristine shape throughout the season. To help out, coaches of Mean Green soccer, swimming, football and cross country bring in nutritionists at the beginning of each season to give players an idea of what foods are best for replenishing their fuel outside of practice.

Swimming and diving head coach Brendon Bray said carbohydrate-centric diets are even more important for his athletes in comparison to those from other sports based on how much they train, usually totaling more than 20 hours of pool time per week.

“It’s more important for us because it has a direct relation to how they perform when they’re in the pool on a daily basis, and that’s our main evaluation,” Bray said.

At the peak of his career, the diet of U.S. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps went viral. Phelps once told ESPN that he eats as many as 10,000 calories per day to keep in shape. He said his diet included plenty of pizza and pasta, something North Texas swimmers Michelle Balcaen and Gaby Colunga can relate to.

“Everyone’s heard that story about how much Michael Phelps eats, and it’s true,” Balcaen said. “We’re in the pool for an hour and a half to two hours at a time. We’re constantly going and picking up pace and moving fast. You are burning a considerable amount of carbs.”

The timing of when to eat what foods plays a huge factor as well. Consuming giant meals right before a practice or performance is rarely a good choice, but doing so 48 hours to a week beforehand can prove beneficial in the long run.

Balcaen, Colunga and cross country senior Troy Taylor all benefit from “carbo-loading” in preparation for meets or races, often times cooking massive amounts of pasta to both eat and save as leftovers for later. But athletes across North Texas all focus on controlling their meal portions on a daily basis, usually eating up to six times a day.

“You definitely just want to eat constantly,” Taylor said. “You’re burning a lot of calories every day you run. I try to have three main meals a day and try to snack in between them.”

Before a morning workout, it’s important for athletes to get in at least 300 calories with some type of protein intake. The convenient location and quality selection makes Victory Hall’s Champs Cafeteria the overwhelming favorite for Mean Green athletes, providing a good mix of protein, carbs and vegetables at all times of the day.

If a member of the football team is not showing proper progress during daily weigh-ins before lifting, strength and conditioning coach Lewis Caralla makes sure they come to breakfast at 7:15 every morning. Caralla said fluctuations in weight from day to day can be a good indicator of how much sleep and hydration an athlete is getting. So when athletes fill their plate with all their favorite foods, Caralla sometimes has to put the hammer down.

“I’ve had times where I’ve had food on my plate after a good practice, coach will walk by and snatch something off my plate,” junior defensive tackle Sir Calvin Wallace said. “I’ll be kind of sad, but I know it’s for the best. So I can’t really say too much about it.”

Eating the occasional bag of chips or packet of candy throughout the day isn’t going to kill an athlete’s diet, as long as they don’t make a habit of it. Most college athletes grew accustomed to making healthy choices in high school, so passing up on stopping by at the local Whataburger has become second nature.

Additionally, habits of staying hydrated throughout the day have been ingrained into the minds of athletes from an early age. In the Texas heat, drinking enough fluids is even more imperative, especially for sports that involve a lot of cardio.

Cross country members run nearly every morning, approaching 50 miles in a typical school week and up to 100 miles a week in the summer. In soccer, keeping up with cardio is just as important. Senior midfielder Lindsey Hulstein said if players aren’t in shape for 90-minute games each weekend and multiple practices every week, there’s not much that can be done.

“For me personally, water is a huge component,” Hulstein said. “I have to carry a water bottle with me at all times.”

For football players, being out on the field constantly during camps in scorching August months puts a lot of strain on their bodies, especially with all the padding and protection they wear. While some players believe eating lean and eliminating fat from their diet is the way to go, Caralla makes sure to emphasize the importance of essential fats like olive oil and the consumption of protein shakes multiple times a day.

No matter which position group a player is from or how fast his or her metabolism is, eating properly portioned meals throughout the year and staying consistent with healthy choices is the only way to achieve their goals.

“You can lift as much as you want, you can work as hard as you want,” Caralla said. “But if the diet isn’t right, you’re not going to see the gains you want.”

Featured Image: Matt Brown | Senior Staff Photographer

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