When you pair a student-athlete’s hectic schedule with their increased energy and nutrient demands, it’s no surprise that so many struggle to get in adequate meals between training sessions and classes. The lack of convenient, nutrient dense options often causes athletes to skip meals, and consequently, underfuel a lifestyle with high energy demands. When the energy going in doesn’t match the energy going out, this will leave the athlete in a state of low energy availability, which can eventually go on to cause a multitude of serious health issues that will impair their performance. As a former collegiate lacrosse athlete, who was pursuing a degree in nutrition and dietetics, I understand the common missteps and challenges that student-athletes face when it comes to fueling throughout the day. Read on for my top lacrosse nutrition tips plus meal examples that align with a lacrosse athlete’s needs!
Lacrosse Nutrition: In-Season Training Schedule and Food Intake
As a collegiate athlete, I was constantly juggling training, practice, and schoolwork. Most days consisted of a lifting/agility session, practice, and a few days out of the week we had early morning endurance conditioning on top of it all. Although this schedule makes it easy to put nutrition on the backburner, I understood that optimizing my nutrition would in turn allow me to improve my energy, recovery, immunity, and overall performance as an athlete. Hence, I was constantly looking to provide energy for my upcoming workout, and ingest protein after for continued recovery. Follow along to see how I navigated through my campus’ dining options to optimize my nutrition and enhance my performance on the field!
7am Breakfast: Oatmeal with fortified soy milk and ground flaxseed mixed in, topped with blueberries and almond butter
Athletes need to consistently replenish carbohydrate stores, and oatmeal provides slow releasing energy to do that, fueling your brain through classes. The flax and almond butter add healthy fats which promote good inflammatory responses, and the blueberries provide nutrients and antioxidants to support your overall health. Finally, the soy milk and almond butter increase the protein content, which is important for enhancing muscle recovery around the clock. Aside from these nutritional benefits, this meal is relatively inexpensive, quick, and can even be prepared in a dorm room, or found in most cafeterias!
8am Classes: Packed Snack (hard boiled eggs or greek yogurt with fruit, or raw vegetables + pita with to-go hummus)
Eggs and greek yogurt are easy to keep on hand and pack a decent amount of protein to help your body constantly repair muscles. Thankfully, I had access to a refrigerator on campus, so prior to each week I would prep or pick up some snacks like this, so that I could grab one in the morning and take it with me to campus to have in between classes.
12pm Lunch: Grain Bowl or Sandwich
My school cafeteria didn’t have many options for food, but they offered a ‘salad bar’ year round, filled with a diverse range of options. Therefore, most days I would create a packed grain bowl, and change up what I put in it each time! I usually opted for a base of spinach and quinoa, then added in beans or chickpeas, dried fruit, raw veggies, and topped it all off with some nourishing fats like avocado, sliced nuts and dressing. A mix of complex carbohydrates like quinoa and beans will be digested slower and release energy just in time for practice in a few hours, while the simple carbohydrates in dried fruits provide much quicker energy for lifting in an hour. Not to mention, the quinoa and beans also provide sufficient fiber and protein to increase satiety. Also, pairing the iron-rich spinach base with raw vegetables high in vitamin C, such as peppers or tomatoes, allows for optimal iron absorption. Iron is especially important since it plays a role in transporting oxygen to working muscles, and athletes have such high working demands placed on their muscles. By topping this nutrient-dense bowl off with nourishing fats, it allows for all of the fat-soluble vitamins in the vegetables to be absorbed! For the days I wasn’t able to stop by the dining hall or was in a rush, I would typically pack a sandwich (I need to follow a gluten free diet, but you can choose whole wheat bread!), containing tuna salad and avocado, and some raw vegetables on the side, to ensure that I was still getting a balanced meal in. Adding dried fruit or a piece of fruit to the side can enhance energy availability if needed before afternoon practice.
1pm Team Lift/Conditioning
2pm Team Film/Meeting: Packed snack (RX bar + an apple)
While I aimed to get the majority of my nutrients through whole foods, I found that adding energy bars (like Clif, GoMacro, RX, etc) into my diet gave me an edge on days where I needed to recover my muscles from my lift and replenish my energy stores for practice. I would often pack one in my bag in the morning with a piece of fruit for some quick releasing energy before practice!
5:30-6pm After Practice: Protein shake or Energy Bites
Since I would often leave practice starving, I found it best to have a high protein/carb snack on hand to kickstart my recovery process, and enjoy that while preparing a larger, more nutrient-dense meal for dinner. If I was having a shake, I would opt for a high protein milk like soy, a NSF certified protein powder, then add in some frozen fruits, dates or honey for simple carbohydrates, which allow for glycogen stores to be refueled quickly.
6:30pm Dinner: Pasta or Lean meat with a starch and veggie
On nights I had to rush to class, I would make a bean pasta with some marinara, sauteed spinach and garlic. Not only is bean pasta an affordable, shelf stable, protein and carbohydrate rich item, but it also packs a good amount of iron, and the sauteed spinach does as well. For other nights when I didn’t have class to rush to or was eating at the dining hall, I would usually have a chicken breast in olive oil, and pair it with steamed vegetables and a sweet potato or some brown rice. These are all budget friendly without sacrificing any nutrients, as there is a balance of protein from the meat, fats from the olive oil, carbohydrates from the sweet potato, and fiber from the vegetables.
What do you think you might be missing as a student athlete? Do you have the right performance nutrition goals in mind? If you’re looking for more resources to build a better fueling schedule for lacrosse or any other sport, browse our downloads, watch our webinar on sports nutrition basics, or check out our RD services!
Written by Julia Stumpf.
Julia is a former collegiate lacrosse athlete, currently working towards her master’s degree in Rowan University’s Coordinated Program in Dietetics, to eventually become a registered dietitian. Upon graduation, she plans to work with athletes to help them adopt a sustainable approach that allows them to fuel their body, and maximize their potential.