Special nutrient needs are a requirement in order to enhance the way an athlete performs.
Recovering and maintaining a healthy diet and just one day of food freedom for an athlete can make all the difference in keeping the body on track for a healthy meal plan.
Splurging once a week to enjoy an unhealthy meal is normal and beneficial to an athlete’s healthy diet and allows them to want to continue their nutritious eating habits.
However, a cheat day can become an issue for college athletes when the ability to maintain a healthy eating habit becomes costly and difficult to get their hands on.
“I think those are some of the most underrated things when you look at collegiate athletics, it's easy to look at the pros and say well they have all the time in the world to do this stuff,” coach Mark Pavlik said.
Designed directly for the players in 2015, all 31 varsity sports teams have a facility that holds a nutrition bar which provides a quick and easy way to get in some carbs or proteins before and after practice.
These Nittany Lions appreciate the fast fueling energy bar especially when they are running late to practice and need a quick healthy bite to eat.
“If we didn't have the nutrition room our eating habits would be different because it's easy to grab something from there that's healthier and fast,” Luke Braswell said.
“We’re getting the essential proteins our lifts and after practices, it definitely helps us out a lot because we take care of our bodies and our diet,” Jason Donorovich added.
In fact, eating Taco Bell and enjoying some frozen yogurt after practice on a Monday seems like it would have zero effect on an athlete's performance for a game on Friday. Will Bantle feels cheating one day a week does not have an effect on his body or his performance on the court.
“A cheat day would not affect my performance because you digest the food and it goes away eventually,” Bantle said. “You can’t notice it all.”
Donorovich agrees with his teammate that as long as the crave for some pizza and soda comes early in the week, he will be set to perform at his highest level while fulfilling that crave.
“I don’t think it will affect my performance that much, usually when it gets around game time we don’t try and eat crappy meals,” Donorovich said. “If you go on a Monday and Tuesday you can work around it.”
Overall, adequate nutrition and fluid should be a priority in order to sustain high physical activity, body weight and replenishment, and Penn State holds its position in doing this.
Pavlik feels Penn State works well in supplying its athletes with opportunities to meet these specific needs.
“I think what Penn State tries to do is create an environment that enables all of their student athletes to take advantage of the academic side of things, the nutrition side of things and the science/sleep side of things,” Pavlik said. “These are all of the tools necessary for those who want to perform a certain level of excellence.”
Pavlik and his team are well aware that diet will always have a bigger impact than training. Keeping nutrition as a priority while recognizing the importance of taking on the responsibility to do so is what the athletes are now focusing on more than ever.
“I think what our student athletes have to do now is make sure they take advantage of how we provide them with the assistance and help to get their bodies fueled the right way,” Pavlik said.
“I think that on the nutrition scale it is becoming more and more important to maintain a good diet, especially because of everything that's being asked of the student athletes bodies in the gym.”