As a dietitian for gymnasts, I hear my fair share of struggles from high-level gymnasts. You struggle with energy. You struggle with strength and endurance. You struggle with injuries. And you struggle with not-knowing.
And when I do a deep dive into their fueling routine, they're almost always coming up short with their nutrition. They're not eating enough food overall and enough of the right types of foods.
And they're not alone in this struggle. Research shows that upwards of 75% of high level gymnasts do not eat enough overall energy throughout the day.
But, often when I suggest eating more food (food that includes carbs and healthy fats) so many gymnasts are hesitant.
You're scared to gain weight.
You're scared of being judged, or what your coach or parents might say.
You're afraid of the consequences at practice, like feeling too full or bloated, having an upset stomach or, having to run to the bathroom
You're preoccupied, too lazy, or stressed with everything else during the day (like school, homework, other activities, etc.)
You just don't know what you should be eating
I get it, eating more can be scary or overwhelming! Our sport and our society tells us to eat as little as possible and avoid foods. That feeling hungry is a bad thing that should be ignored.
And I get it. I've been there. As a gymnast for 15 years of my life, I understand the pressures you face.
As a dietitian, I also know that well fueled gymnasts are also high-performing, happy, and healthy gymnasts.
And that the reason you might be struggling, whether you like it or not, is that you need to eat more. And to do this, it usually means adding more food or adding in some different types of foods.
I get that you're scared. When I work with high-level gymnasts in my Fuel for Success Program, I use these 4 strategies to help them eat more food while supporting their goals and making sure none of their fears come true:
Make 1 change at a time: By adding a little bit of food at a time, you will immediately start to reap the benefits, like increased energy and ability to recover, without negative consequences like a sudden increase in body fat mass
Eat on a schedule: Fitting meals and snacks into your daily routine, eating every ~3 hours is a great way to fuel for the activities to come, without ever feeling like you need to eat past feeling comfortably full
Make a nutrient-dense swap: Some foods might just be filling you up (with air or fiber) without packing an energy-filled punch. Swap low-calorie snacks for normal ones. Add nuts/nut butter, seeds, avocado, or cheese to a meal. Drink an extra glass of milk or 100% fruit juice (like tart cherry juice or pomegranate juice for recovery). Include starches or fruit instead of only veggies. Use olive oil to cook veggies or as a way to dress salad.
Use a food journal to track changes: Using a food journal can be a great way to bring awareness to the impact of changes in your food habits. As you add more or new foods throughout your day, make notes on things like your energy levels, your mood, your sleep, and how you felt during training.This is also a great tool to help you find the best pre- and mid-workout snacks for your body!
So trust me when I say that working with a dietitian to help you fuel your body right will:
Teach you what you need to know to fuel your body
Help you feel your best while training (and help prevent injuries)
Optimize your individual body composition
Want to feel confident with your fueling plan and learn to fuel success? I help competitive gymnasts fuel their bodies, prevent injuries, and reach their highest potential. Curious about how working together could improve your performance in the gym? Apply to work with me so we can see if we'd be a good fit to work together.