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Krissy Krash, Angel City Derby Girls
Whether you have been doing derby for six months or six years, the idea of eating like an athlete may seem like a daunting task. The majority of us have jobs, families, and millions of other things to work around. The high level of stress often means that our nutrition falls to the wayside; we expect our bodies to perform like high-level machines, but do not fuel our bodies so that they can do so. Seven years ago, when I discovered this amazing obsession called roller derby, I was no different.
During my first few years of derby, my eating habits were awful. My day consisted of AMPM’s tuna pita pocket for breakfast on the way to work, an entire box of Cheez-Its for lunch AND snacks (unless I went wild and got some Carls Jr). Then, before practice, I would run home. I would dip a spoonful of peanut butter into a bag of M&M’s and shove that in my mouth as I was running out the door. And hydration was a joke. I did not drink water, but I DID average 2-3 double caffeine blue Rockstar energy drinks per day because I was mysteriously so tired all the time.
The reason I share this is to show you that eating healthy is not as difficult as we tell ourselves. I promise you: if I can go from THAT girl to the beast that plans out six meals plus her gallon of water daily, so can you.
While nutrition in our society has gotten complicated, I want to assure you that eating healthy and providing your body what it needs to perform optimally is anything but complicated. The key is designing a template for a perfect day and then simply inserting in foods that are yummy, quick and as portable as possible to support your lifestyle.
Each day plan on eating three meals, two snacks and a recovery snack after your workout or practice. These meals and snacks ideally should be comprised of 1/3 protein (lean meats or veggies protein sources) and 2/3 complex carbs (fruits, veggies, whole grains). Healthy fats are also important so adding in snacks or meals that include some nuts and fish will help you easily reach a healthy fat intake without thinking too much about it.
The key is to keep the machine fueled at all times. Waking up, skipping breakfast, and holding out till lunch is like jumping in your car for a road trip, notice the gas tank is empty and thinking, “Eh, I am sure we will get there anyway.” The difference is your car will just stop. Your body, on the other hand, is pretty resourceful and will find other ways of accessing energy sources. It will begin by using up the muscle glycogen stores that your body was saving for practice later that night. After that, it goes for the next most available energy source: your hard earned muscle. Eating every 3-4 hours will help you provide your body with the easy access fuel it needs to keep running without going for these back up energy sources.
If you walk out the door each morning knowing what you are eating that day, you will be setting yourself up to feel great by the time practice rolls around that night. Here is a quick cheat sheet you can create for yourself to plan out a great day. Use the structure below to fill in your meals from the guidelines from The Basics above. Breakfast: Snack: Lunch: Snack: Dinner: Post Practice Recovery:
3 tips for success:
1. keep it simple
If you haven’t cooked a meal for yourself in the last year, and now you plan to make three meals, two snacks and a recovery, don’t be afraid to eat similar things all week long. I pre-cook enough chicken breasts and egg cups (ham slices in a cupcake tin and filled with eggs and veggies then baked) to last a week. I also stock the fridge with spinach, broccoli, and precooked brown rice packets and other ingredients that, depending on how I mix them, can be used to make salads, stir fry, or wraps. You do not need to have a festive unique meal every single night! Keep yourself sane and set yourself up for success by eating similar things all week, then if you feel so inclined, switch it up for the next week.
2. give yourself 21 days
It takes 21 days to form a habit. Will the first 3-5 days feel like you are thinking a lot about what you are eating? Probably. By the next week will it feel a bit easier? Absolutely. By the third week it will start to feel normal to preplan, precook, and prepack your meals. Plus the extra energy you feel will make it all worth it. Just like learning to powerslide, repetition is the key to success. If you fall down, get back up and try again.
3. set SMART goals
I didn’t make the transition from Cheez-It Queen to Healthy Eater overnight, and you probably won’t either. Setting small goals for yourself can help you make big changes over time without feeling like you are flipping your life upside down. Coming up with somes Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant goals with a Timeline (SMART) is a perfect way to go from fast food queen to fueling like an athlete. This week, preplan breakfast and set the goal to eat it every day. Next week, shoot for half your body weight in ounces of water each day (e.g. 80 oz for a 160 pound person). The week after, focus on getting a lean protein source in every meal or snack. Before you know, it you will be preplanning meals and making healthier choices that are in line with your goals without a second thought.
Most of us join roller derby as a fun hobby but very quickly realize that it’s a community and a lifestyle we want to be a part of for a long time. The bottom line is if you want your body to hold up over years of being knocked down, you have to put the right fuel in to allow it to perform optimally. Take care of your body, it’s the only place you have to live!