Should You Make Your Student Athlete Diet With You?

As a professional in the health field I seem to be a well from which people try and quench their nutritional thirst. Seeing as how there is no general consensus on what is a good diet these days, I really don't blame them. Fat is bad. Fat is good. Don't eat gluten. What is gluten? A mom says her son died from eating too much protein!! Everyone from your morning talk show hosts to your dear aunt Sally and thousands more are spouting diet advice - but who actually knows what they are talking about?

We all have this desire to be leaner, meaner, and healthy - and this desire is not absent from your kids. So when you begin a diet, which you will at some point this year, take a step back and reconsider making your son or daughter join you.

I feel like I should clarify that I am not a dietitian. I have, however, had some of my research published in the domain of sports nutrition "The Effects  of Glucose Supplementation on Barbell Velocity and Fatigability in Weightlifting: A Pilot Study" I'll talk about my results later and how they can affect an athlete, particularly yours, in any sport.

First off, I applaud you for taking the initiative to improve your health and physique through diet. They say that you can't outwork a bad diet, and this is extremely true in the early phases of weight loss. In many cases, people begin by restricting something from their eating. Being the extremists that we Americans are, we like to restrict ourselves to the point of masochism. For example, Wichita Falls has fallen under the spell of the Ketogenic Diet.

If you don't know much about the ketogenic diet you can follow this link on an article I wrote called "What is Ketosis" If you don't like the science side of everything then you can just follow this article I wrote a while back called "How I Lost Weight By Eating 4000 Calories Per Day" To say that I have done and understand the ketogenic diet would be a gross understatement. That does not mean that I am pro Ketosis for everyone though. I am also not anti-Keto. I'd classify myself as "there's more than one way to skin a cat."

An athlete who engages in high intensity play needs a crucial macronutrient which is sparse in a diet like the ketogenic one - CARBS. Fifteen years ago if someone wanted to lose weight they typically eliminated fat from their diet. Unfortunately fat is crucial for many hormones and health and as a society we learned this the hard way. Today when someone decides to start a diet they eliminate carbohydrates from their diet. Likewise people are learning the role of this macro less than ideally.

As a parent you have to step back and see how a diet affects you, and then compare that to someone whose body is operating very differently from your own. For example, if you have a high school daughter playing volleyball and you both decide to begin a ketogenic or low carb diet YOU may suffer from some of these symptoms: Lethargy, carbohydrate cravings, weakness, rapid weight loss, and even dehydration. If you work in an office all day these symptoms SUCK but they will not deeply affect your ability to perform. However, your daughter has a different lifestyle than you. She will be running, lifting, and playing her sport many times a week. Her metabolism is much higher due to age and the likelihood of greater muscle mass. She will burn through carbohydrates and all available fuel sources much faster. This is not to say that both of you won't lose weight, but at what cost for you child?

Going on a diet is not a horrible idea for your athlete, but the reality is that what fuels you cannot fuel them. Whatever makes you lose weight will make them lose more - and suffer in the process.

This past summer we ran a program called "The Muscle Gain Challenge" which was a huge success. On average our participants lost 2.6% body fat and gained 10.3 pounds of muscle. They lost fat on a program that had heavy doses of carbohydrates. For some individuals the weight on the scale only changed slightly but the body fat melted away.

Dieting for life is very different from dieting for sport. Every week someone will walk in (typically a female athlete) and within a half an hour they begin to display the symptoms of low blood sugar. Light-headedness, fatigue, weakness, and my least favorite tears. I provide them with 15 grams of fast digesting carbohydrates and - low and behold - they are back to crushing their workout and day. I even have athletes on MANDATROY pre-workout pop tarts and PB&J sandwiches to ensure they can keep up with their lifestyle demands.

But why carbs? Remember the study I mentioned earlier? My study showed that carbohydrates during training can improve velocity (speed) in weightlifting and can negate the reduction in speed shown in those who do not have carbohydrates in workouts. Likewise, other studies have shown that carbs improve power, speed, and generally increase performance especially when associated with fatigue. This means running faster and jumping higher later in the game.

To sum up this entire post.

It is okay to place your child on a diet, but keep in mind, what works for you is probably too extreme for them. You probably shouldn't make them eat exactly what you do.

"So what should we do if our child wants to lose weight?"

The easiest thing to do is ask them to eat less. This could be less snacks, smaller serving sizes on plates, or most likely they should just be real consistent with their meals. In other words, no binge eating ice cream on a Sunday.

Whatever you do, please, please, please, do not take their carbs from them.

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About Me

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BS, MS - exercise Physiology
EPC - Board Certified Exercise Physiologist

Published Thesis
The impact of three different forms of warm up on performance

The Effects of Glucose Supplementation on Barbell Velocity and Fatiguability in Weightlifting - A pilot study"

The Accute Effects Of Different Squat Intensities on Vertical Jump Performances
The Accute Effects of Different Squat Intensities On Jump Performance

Graduate from Midwestern State University, founder of Endunamoo Barbell Club, and Endunamoo Strength and Conditioning. Working to help athletes physically reach their goals and achieve scholarships while spiritually pouring into as many people as possible on all platforms.