Many experts have stated that a well-balanced diet is critical for athletes' to reach their peak performance, and coaches throughout the country have been encouraging their players to eat healthily for a number of years. As a result, it's no surprise that a recent press release from the Collegiate & Professional Sports Dietitians Association (CPSDA) reported that more than half of the National College Athletics Association's (NCAA) top 25 football teams have at least one full-time sports registered dietitian (RD) on staff, highlighting the increasing emphasis on diet in sports.
Referred to as "food coaches" or sports RDs by the teams, these experts design and implement meal programs for the athletes, and the CPSDA reported that as demand has risen in recent years for their services, the market is much more competitive. The organization cited the fact that diet is now "part and parcel of a well-rounded athletic program" in the football hiring trend.
Dave Ellis, an advisor for the Oklahoma football team, said in the release, "Sports RDs have long since transcended the pre-game meal. We're in the recovery business – replenishing athletes' expended calories with healthy whole foods and safe nutritional supplements – and the best coaches and athletic directors realize there's a science to that."
Balance is the key to a good sports diet, many dieticians say. It may seem basic, but experts emphasize that it is important for athletes to eat enough carbohydrates, protein, fat, fruits and veggies. Each group is essential for the body's smooth function: proteins build muscle, carbs and fat provide long-lasting energy and fruits and veggies contain vitamins and minerals.
Even if your team doesn't have a full-time food coach, you can still support your athletes' health by educating them on the importance of always eating nutritiously. Diet is, arguably, as important as having the right football equipment.