From Fasting to Filling Up: Nutritional habits student athletes follow

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By: Geneva Nodland, nodlandge@mnstate.edu

Behind every successful athlete there is support, passion, drive–and a diet.

There are a lot of different things to think about as a student athlete in and out of season, some being grades, social life, or performance. One thing some may not think about is an athlete’s diet, and all the differences between diets.

Although there is one common goal between all athletes, they all have different ways of getting there. For example, in cross-country, the night before a meet involves a whole lot of carbs. Jay Biwer, a fifth year senior at MSUM, said it’s standard to have pasta and chicken the night before a race or a big workout. Biwer, 22, is majoring in business management and economics and has been running since his eighth grade year.

Taking a look into a different kind of sport, the night before a wrestling meet may run a little different. Junior and third year wrestler for MSUM, Mitch Kotschevar, brought up the importance of weigh-ins prior to a meet. Kotschevar, 20, is a business major with an emphasis in management.

“Before a meet we have weigh-ins, which you don’t really eat before,” Kotschevar said. “But after weigh-ins you drink a lot of water, (eat) fruits, granola bars, stuff like that.”

A wrestler wants to eat lighter before weigh-ins in order to be in a lower weight class. Kotschevar said he will also do an extra workout before meets.

Even before the season starts, athletes keep their eating habits in the back of their minds. Kotschevar said preseason involves eating healthier all around, consuming smaller portions and avoiding junk food.

“You’re still trying to lose weight,” Kotschevar said, and he does.

He said from preseason to the beginning of the season he will lose 10-20 pounds, but it varies for each athlete.

For the most part, the wrestling team follows a healthier diet during the season. Similar to wrestling, and most other sports, Biwer said that the cross-country team doesn’t have a specific diet, rather they just avoid that same kind of junk food. Besides the few vegans and vegetarians on the team, the other runners form similar eating patterns.

“There isn’t so much of a required diet, it’s just kind of what’s expected and what we expect to have as a diet,” Biwer said. “We try not to eat so much processed food. We try to stay away from sugar as much as possible.”

Sugar is the main enemy of the cross-country team, according to Biwer.

“The junk foods really add up,” Biwer said. “If you have too much junk food you’re going to slow down, and you’re going to burn out throughout the season.”

Diet is important for any athlete, but it doesn’t work alone. Each sport has workouts to better their athletes, and each athlete has specified workouts to better themselves. Biwer said they will run 70-80 miles per week for practices, again bringing up the importance of eating right in order to obtain and utilize the energy. Kotschevar said the wrestling team practices two hours a day, and occasionally has morning practices. They will also lift two or three times a week, but concentrate on that more during preseason.

“Preseason we’ll focus on lifting a little more, and once the season gets going it’s kind of hard to gain strength while you’re trying to lose weight,” Kotschevar said. “But we still try to maintain our strength, so we’ll cut back on how many times a week we lift.”

With hopes for a good season comes an athlete’s loyalty to the diet and workout. In order to see results, the athlete, whether runner or wrestler, has to follow some sort of plan.

“You kind of pay for it if you cheat your diet,” Kotschevar said. “It’ll take that much more to lose that weight, but if you stick to your diet it’s not as strenuous … And you just feel better if you maintain that diet.”

Especially when it comes to weigh-ins in wrestling, Kotschevar said the coach usually picks what weight class the wrestler will be in, but the lower the class, the harder it is to get and maintain that weight.

“You can pick what weight you’re at, but if you pick the lowest weight class you have to be pretty dedicated to get to it,” he said.

Although there are similarities between the diets, the main difference is the intention of the athletes. Biwer emphasized the end goal for their diet is energy. The runners want to guarantee enough energy for practice or, more importantly, a race. In wrestling on the other hand, athletes follow a certain diet in order to cut down weight throughout the season. Both sports involve similar tactics, but in combination with specified workouts they can lead to very different outcomes.

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