From home to school to the gym to home, gymnasts are on the go A LOT.
I remember in middle school and I used to leave my house by 7:10am to get to school, and some days I wouldn't be back home until 9:30pm after a full day of school and 4 hours of practice. In high school, I had to leave my house by 6:30am...
On the go meals and snacks were the only options I had to fuel for these long days. Breakfast on the bus, in the car, or even at school before first period. Starving by 3rd period, it was time for second breakfast. I ate a packed lunch at school everyday and a packed snack for the afternoon (between high school gym, tutoring, choir, Honor Society, or whatever other meeting I had to go to). Then was time for a quick dinner (either at home if I was lucky or in the car on the way to practice). And while I was lucky that I lived close to the gym, so many of my teammates brought dinner to eat on the way home from practice, prioritize recovery fuel and be able to start homework as soon as I got home. And then there still had to be time for a shower, relax, and get 8 hours of sleep!
Does that sound familiar?!
Are there even enough hours in the day for a busy gymnast????
Gymnasts, being busy and constantly on the go are not reasons to skip meals and snacks. You'll miss the mark on fueling properly to give your body enough energy. Being busy makes eating enough and eating often even more crucial in order to keep your energy levels up all day. This will help you make it through school, practice, homework, and other activities feeling your best so you can do your best in the gym and other aspects of your life.
How can gymnasts make fueling on the go easier?
Pack Food the Night Before
Whether it's breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks, packing your food for the next day each night will help save you time in the morning, as well as ensure you have the food (and therefore fuel) you need for the next day. Have a spot in the refrigerator where you can pack cold and perishable items and set out non-perishable snacks by your backpack or gym bag so that it's easier to grab and remember in the morning! If you want, you can even decide what you're going to eat for breakfast the next day, and if possible, you can even make it ahead of time as well! Doing this will save you precious sleep time in the morning.
Use the Weekend to Meal Prep
Set aside some time on the weekends to make a big batch of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack options so you can save time during the week with less cooking and prep time needed on these days!
Consider making one or two breakfast options, one or two snack options, some veggies, a protein source, and one or two carb sources to mix and match for meals and snacks throughout the week. Instead of taking the time every day to make a breakfast or lunch before rushing out the door, you can just grab some of the options that are already fully ready! Additionally, preparing meals (or at least ingredients) can save time when making dinner after practice. This helps a gymnasts refuel and recover sooner after practice as well as have more time for homework at night.
Be sure to take advantage of all of your kitchen appliances! Crock pots, instant pots, slow cookers, and air fryers are all great to use for batch prepping meals. They require minimal attention and hassle while still cooking delicious food that can be reheated and eaten throughout the week!
Meal prepping looks different for everyone. You don't have to make all 21 meals for the week ahead of time. Even something as simple as cooking a package of chicken breasts to have as a protein option available all week or washing and cutting your fruits and veggies right after you get home from the grocery store can help you save time during the week and make fueling just a little bit easier.
Expect to Eat On the Go
Eating on the go is a realistic part of the life of a busy gymnast. On the go meals and snacks are a gymnast's best friend when it comes to fueling. Car rides to and from school and the gym are a great time in a gymnast's schedule to eat and replenish energy stores before the next activity of the day. Gymnasts, if your drive home from the gym is over an hour long, you NEED to eat either a meal or a snack on the car ride home to maximize your refueling and recovery after practice.
Some easy on the go snacks for gymnasts include:
crackers and cheese
protein bar or shake
Greek yogurt parfait
fruit + nut butter
cereal cup + milk
PBJ or other sandwich
Thermoses are also very useful to keep hot foods (like pasta, chicken, or cooked veggies) warm to be eaten at a later time! Before I started driving myself, I would often ask my mom to bring a Thermos with dinner--usually some combination of chicken, veggies, and pasta or rice--in the car when she picked me up from practice. This helped me to refuel immediately after practice (especially since I was usually pretty hungry after 4 hours of gymnastics) and save time since I could start homework right away when I got home from practice.
Don't Fear "Fast" Food
While preparing food at home might be preferred, sometimes it just isn't possible for your meals or snacks to be homemade (or at least packed at home). Don't be afraid to get food from other places when you need to - a fast food restaurant, convenience store, or a school cafeteria can still provide options you can use to build a gymnast's plate. Some great on-the-go fueling options from include grilled chicken sandwich and fruit cup, a full sandwich, a loaded salad plus a roll and side of fruit, or a burrito bowl. All of these options include protein, carbs, color, and fats - everything you need on your gymnast's plate to help you fuel properly.
Don't let your hectic schedule prevent you from fueling your best! You need a lot of food to keep your energy up throughout the day so you can reach your academic and gymnastics goals! Fueling while on the go is a great way to make sure your energy levels stay up!