Level up: Improve your Athlete-Food Relationship (A Food Scientist’s Perspective)

Guest Author Erin McCann
Guest Author Erin McCann

Erin McCann is a food scientist who played for the U20 National Team in 2018, and Minneapolis Drag’n Thrust in 2019.

I am a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota’s Food Science and Nutrition program. I played Frisbee for four years at the University of Minnesota, one year on the 2018 U20 team, and one year on Drag’n Thrust in 2019. I am not a registered dietician, but I have sufficient experience and knowledge surrounding food and how it interacts with our lives as Frisbee players. Here are four tips on how to get the most out of your nutrition.

Tip #1: Eat Enough

A very common mistake I see in athletes is a reluctance to eat enough food to sustain an active lifestyle. My childhood sport background is in track and cross country; I witnessed many teammates limit themselves on food intake in hopes it would make them faster. While weight loss may enable a person to feel lighter and faster, long term restricted eating can be extremely damaging to mental and physical health and almost always results in injury.

Tip #2: Make Time for The Right Food

As a busy Frisbee player with classes or a full-time job, it can be hard enough to make it to workouts, let alone meal prep lunch and dinner. As a food scientist, it is my job to make the food easier to consume and safe to eat after shipping and storage. Although it is almost always healthier to consume home-cooked meals, (due to lower sodium, fat, added sugar, and additives) it is important to mention that it is okay to eat processed foods as an athlete. Eat as healthy as you can for what your budget and time constraints allow. Buy low sodium products and check food labels for added sugars; just by doing this you will be giving yourself a competitive edge by maintaining good heart health and reducing inflammation.

Tip #3: Time Your Meals

Protein should be consumed within 30 minutes of exercising. Protein in the form of real food is absorbed better by your intestines, so less grams are required for consumption than if you are consuming a protein bar or shake. Carbohydrates are also required for proper recovery. After sessions of moderate or vigorous exercise, it is recommended to consume simple carbohydrates to replenish your used-up muscle glycogen. By consuming these nutrients in a timely fashion, your body can recover much quicker, which means you will be more prepared for your next workout with a lesser risk of injury.

Tip #4: Remain Mindful, Not Controlling

Improving your eating habits are a result of incremental lifestyle changes. While it is important to stay mindful of your eating habits, it is unhealthy to obsess over them. It is okay to eat dessert, treat yourself, and occasionally eat a whole sleeve of Oreos. Food is meant to be enjoyed. Follow a loose guideline that provides only a small challenge to you, then increase the challenge when you feel ready. Finally, help yourself and others feel empowered by their eating choices by remaining nonjudgmental of meal choices in private or group settings.

Level Up Your Ultimate Frisbee Game

You can level up your Ultimate game with other Level Up articles below.