Food intake, nutrition differs among athletes

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Gatorade. Water bottles. Fig Newtons.

All three are consumed during halftime in the Lehigh football locker room.

Sophomore long-snapper Jack Dean said Fig Newtons quickly provide energy, so they’re a good snack before the second half of a game begins.

As something that directly effects physique and performance, balanced nutrition is essential to the success of Division I athletes at Lehigh.

The foods athletes eat are dependent on the sports they play and their positions.

Like Dean, Mary Casey, a junior sprinter and mid-distance runner on the women’s track and field team as well as a midfielder on the women’s soccer team, looks to Eric Markovcy for help with nutrition and eating habits. 

Markovcy, the head strength and conditioning coach of Lehigh athletics teams, said athletes are advised to eat four to five smaller meals every two to three hours in order to boost their metabolisms. He said it is important that they drink water and maintain hydration, especially after intense practice sessions where they sweat out a lot of their water weight.

“Our strength coach (Markovcy) stresses to our team to eat twice as many carbs as protein,” Dean said. “He explains portion sizes using a ‘fist system.’ One serving of protein should be the size of your fist, and two servings of carbs should be two fists.”

Casey said she enjoys eating at Rathbone Dining Hall or at the Williams Café after practice. She likes to eat chicken and pasta to refuel and prepare for the next day and tends to eat a little bit more if she knows she’ll be expending more energy at a certain practice or game.

When it comes to track athletes, Casey said each one is different in what they eat.

“Usually the distance runners will be a little pickier on what they eat,” Casey said. “Runners are more particular compared to field athletes when it comes to eating habits, but we are all pretty much eating healthy.”

However, Casey said the go-to snack for all track athletes at Lehigh is peanut butter because it’s a good source of protein and has a little sugar to give a boost during competition. 

On the football team, Dean said the offensive line eats differently than the wide receivers.

“It all comes down to portion size,” Dean said. “Our team usually eats the same types of food, but depending on if you need to gain weight, lose weight, or maintain because of your position, the amount fluctuates.”

Dean said team members most commonly consume protein, which is both cheap and nutritious, making it a good option for college athletes. 

The timing of meals is also important for student-athletes. For some track athletes specifically, carb-loading is an important piece of success before a race.

“I don’t carb-load, but I know people on my team do it,” Casey said. “It all depends on what you believe in, the type of race you run, and how you physically feel when you fuel your body.”

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