Food is Fuel… discussion from a former athlete and coach

It’s what is behind a glowing face, bright eyes, a clear head, an energizing morning, a good nights sleep, and strong, well fueled muscles. Food is our fuel and our wonderful source of energy. Food gets pegged as the enemy too often. How many times have you heard the food shaming statements?

“I shouldn’t eat this.”

“You are already skinny, why do you need to eat that healthy?”

“I am not hungry in the morning.”

“I need to be skinny like I used to be. I skip breakfast.”

I have heard all of these statements and many more.  As someone who was a middle school athlete, high school athlete, college athlete who has worked with young women my entire adult life, I have heard these too often. During my time with Kathy Food-Quotes-Images-3here we discussed what it meant to have a healthy relationship with food and some of the shaming we have heard throughout our lives.  We both felt like our society doesn’t teach us how powerful and helpful our food can be. Instead there society has many of us to declare war on our diet, so much so I don’t even like that word anymore “diet.”

When I was coaching Middle School Track I wanted to have the discussion on food that so many of my own pre-college coaches had not. I felt it was almost a taboo topic to have with teenage girls. The most I remember being told was that carbs were good for me before a run, I should be drinking water, and do have a snack beFood fuelfore any competition.  I remember other girls on my track team snacking on a hot dog and cookie between their events. This was not the right fuel for her body but again it felt taboo or like a shoulder shrug to my coaches. Imagine how good we would feel if we were fueling our bodies with the right fuel! 

As a began coaching teenage athletes I knew I wanted to make them feel positive and excited about their food and what it was doing for them. I wanted to teach them how food could be a tool in order to succeed.  First, I threw out all of the negatives about food. Something that came easier for me to do with my team yet difficult for me to tackle in my own mind. Instead of talking to my vibrant wonderful girls about what they should not eat I talked to them about why food was important for a developing and always improving athlete. I made talking about what we eat as something empowering and fun (or at least I thought I did). Why was it empowering? If we fuel our bodies correctly just like if you fuel a machine correctly we were going to improve and see more PRs plus feel better. Although I am discussing this in regards to athletes this idea of fueling our body correctly applies to all of us to lead lives in which we will feel better in perusing what we love in life.

Before the season took off I wanted a way to communicate with the girls about how healthy-quote-1practice went for them and how they were feeling. Since I was coaching over 50 girls I knew this was not going to be possible to talk with each of them individually. So I started sending out Google Surveys to the girls. I used this as a way to tackle some of those topics I knew that again I had not experienced fully until college. One of these topics was food. I broke it down to talk about breakfast first and moving on to topics of snacks, refueling after workouts, lunch, and dinner.

I did not want to single girls out that admitted that they were not eating breakfast or girls that might have not picked the most nutrient dense fuel for starting the day.  That’s not
the point. Many times they did not see the value of why to have a breakfast. Instead I picked girls that were making healthy choices to highlight and explain why that breakfast was a great choice and what it would do for her body. My three year old niece exemplifies the human need for needing to know WHY things are the way they are. We need to do the same thing for ourselves. It helps us make those healthy choices if we understand WHY. WHY should I be eating a whole wheat piece of toast with PB, honey, chia seeds, and banana rather than donut? And really understand.

Let’s look at the teenager, the person who wants to lose weight, or the person who wants to get defined. Having a light breakfast will make it more likely that you are going to only be running on fumes by the afternoon. We have all been there! I know for me a light breakfast means a crash in energy and searching for more energy in any form we can find. It can lead craving anything that will give us quick energy. For example, sweets. Giving our bodies the right nutrients for a great start to the day will keep us going until our am snack.

With my team I would also share some of the breakfasts I would eat and WHY I would have them. I also reminded them how important a post-workout snack was and always let them know they could swing by my classroom in the morning (we had AM practice) to see what my snack was for the day.

As I continue to leave the door open for a dialogue about food in a positive and up-lifting form I saw a culture of girls that were excited to talk and share what foods they were eating with me. I had one athlete, without any request from me, send me a picture of her breakfast before every meet because she was proudPicsArt_04-07-02.25.38d of the delicious energizing breakfast she had prepared for herself to be ready for that days meet. I had anther athlete that loved to come check-out what snack I had for after our workouts and would beam if our snacks were nearly identical.

This is what food should be. It should be something we know makes us feel good, makes our skin glow, makes our runs feel seamless, makes our digestions effortless, and should be something we are excited to talk about. Talking about food should be positive.

So I challenge you to make yourself at least ONE breakfast this week that fuels your body and share a photo of it with a friend and with @KAFitnessToday on Instragram. I will be taking on this challenge as well this week. Look out for 5 breakfasts that I love having posted each weekday this week. I will explain how to make them, why I find each helpful for different lifestyles, and what some of the ingredients do for our bodies.

Peace, Love, Food,

California Angela

P.S. I challenge Kathy to share one of her favorite breakfasts as well!




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