WHAT DOES COMPLETING YEAR 12 AND A PROFESSIONAL ATHLETE HAVE IN COMMON? NUTRITION TIPS TO PERFORM AT YOUR BEST TO THE END.
It is my debut year as a parent of a VCE student and my advice to my son from the start has been that this is like training for a sporting event with finals time being exam time….. that first week of November. As a sports dietitian working with professional athletes in the AFL, I can see lots of similarities with completing year 12.
As an athlete, your focus is on improving your physical skills to perform at your best during a game. For a student, skill development is gaining knowledge to perform at your best on assessments. I have a few nutrition tips that might come in handy.
After a training session or a day of classes there is still plenty of work yet to be done for both. To keep your body on the field as an athlete there is recovery to be done, physiotherapy, ice baths, massage, yoga, watching videos of your game (and of course seeing the sports dietitian), I see this as equivalent to homework.
Both professional athletes and year 12 students make sacrifices with time, needing to prioritise who and what get’s a Guernsey. Looking after your body shouldn’t be something that is sacrificed and this is my most important point as being a health professional this is my focus. You need to get your body through each week in the best condition it can be, with the stamina to still peak at your best when finals and exam time arrives.
What are my tips to you? I bet you think being a dietitian they will all be about food? Well my first one is getting enough good quality sleep. I believe if you get enough sleep you will make better food choices, it is about nutrition I guess. When you get tired your body looks for quick energy. What would that be, sugar and sometimes caffeine. If this is regular it isn’t going to be the best way to fuel your body.
Lack of sleep can also increase dehydration and we know athlete’s do not concentrate as well when dehydrated so students are likely to be the same. My last one on sleep is that lack of sleep stresses your immune system. You can’t function optimally when sick. To help your immune system, eat well, sleep enough and keep physically active. As the year goes on for athletes and student’s you get fatigued. It is your aim to be at your best by the end of the year not run down.
TIPS TO FUEL YOU (for optimal performance):
1. Fluid: check your urine and aim for it to be the colour of straw. Being well hydrated helps with fresher breath. Water and milk are your best options. Limit caffeine drinks and obviously avoid alcohol.
2. Eat breakfast. Include protein to aid with cell repair and brain function producing neurotransmitters important for memory and carbohydrate for energy e.g. cereal with milk and yoghurt, egg or peanut butter on toast, handful of nuts and a piece of fruit, banana smoothie.
3. Include 2 pieces of fruit a day for vitamin C, this helps boost the immune system.
4. Keep iron sources up. Iron is essential to make haemoglobin that carries oxygen around your body. You will feel fatigued if you become iron deficient. Red meat, fish, eggs, green leafy vegetables, lentils and legumes are the best sources.
5. Snack attack: Choose study snacks wisely- fuel yourself and plan. Nuts, small amounts of dried fruit, wholegrain bread with cheese, tuna, egg or nut spreads, soup, cut up vegetables with hummus or tzatziki, crackers and cheese, milk, fresh fruit are all great. Not every break needs food involved. Think whether you are hungry first. It might be great to skip, run, walk or do something active.
6. Eat at home or take food from home most often. Eating at home has been shown to increase your vegetable intake. Vegetables contain antioxidants to reduce inflammation, important for a healthy immune system. Pack your lunch, with some protein, carbohydrate and ‘plant’ matter e.g. wrap with chicken, cheese, tomato and lettuce or Rice paper rolls, soup, crackers with cheese and tomato, homemade muffin, fruit and nuts, it also saves you money. Cooking might be a nice relaxation tool between study. Cook for a few friends or the family.
Athlete’s requirements Student’s equivalent
Coaches, fitness staff Teachers
Training Attending class
Weekly in season games/matches Tests, SAC’s (school assessed coursework)
Team mates Fellow students
Parents, family, friend support Parent, family, friend support
interest other than the sport e.g. study Interest other than study e.g. sport, music
Finals, grand final Exam week
HEALTH: sleep, NUTRITION, relaxation THE SAME (+ physical activity)
Good luck to everyone and nourish your body, it is your most prized and important tool!
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Simone likes to share her expert nutrition advice. Read more