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Nutrition Tips for New College Athletes

I’m sure you’ve been picturing it in your head for months-the first day you set foot on campus. You’ve been here before on visits, but this time, it’s home. Not only are you now a student, but you’ve traded your high school uniform for a college one, and a new training cycle awaits. You’re probably feeling all the emotions: excited, afraid, apprehensive, ambitious, confident… but if you have a history of disordered eating, there’s a part of you that may feel unsure. How are you going to fuel yourself for this new chapter? Here are some tips that may help!

1) Your body needs fuel, probably more fuel than ever. You’re likely running, lifting, practicing, or swimming more than ever. On top of your training, you may also be walking around campus and your college town to get where you need to go! Eating every 3-4 hours, including a variety of food groups at meals and snacks, and “bookending” your workouts with pre-fuel/recovery snacks can help you meet your energy needs.

2) Stock that dorm! Keep a stash of shelf-stable snacks, minifridge items, and quick microwave options so you always have something available should the dining hall or training table not be open. Some great dorm items include granola bars, oatmeal packets, nut butter, trail mix, fruits, microwave rice pouches, tuna pouches, crackers, and KodiakCakes pancake cups. If you have a fridge, some cold options include yogurt, cheese sticks, hummus cups, frozen dinners (if you have a freezer attachment), lunch meat, bread, and hard boiled eggs.

3) Use your options on campus. If you go to a larger school, especially if it’s a higher profile D1 university, you likely have access to several dining halls, possibly a specific cafeteria for athletes. You may have a sports dietitian assigned to your team. Smaller schools are usually contracted with a food service company that services the dining hall such as Sodexo, Aramark, or Chartwells. You may or may not have access to a dietitian, but your school health center may be able to give you a referral. Most schools have dining apps where they post menus to help you plan your day!

4) Eat something before bed. Sleep is prime recovery time-and you’ll need every minute as a busy student athlete. Try a sleep-promoting snack high in protein to help with muscle rebuilding and relaxation, such as milk, yogurt, almonds, or cottage cheese.

5) Embrace the unexpected moments with food. Sometimes, your RA may make cookies for the floor and bring them from room to room. Sometimes, the team may walk to the local Dairy Queen for free cone day. Sometimes, there will be leftover Domino’s pizza from the club meeting. College is full of unexpected moments that make it so special, and many of them involve food. You have permission to enjoy those moments and the food that comes with them. It’s worth it.


Abby Olcott, MS, RD

Instagram: @energysportsdietitian

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