Illustration by Tanya Bearson
Dieting has long been a controversial topic among elite student athletes. While certain diets been proven to improve athletic performance, dieting can also lead to eating disorders and its purpose of providing energy or (conventionally) weight loss can backfire.
Dieting, in its simplest terms, is a method used to monitor weight or energy by regulating one’s food intake. Depending on the sport and demographics of the athlete, diets can vary immensely.
Nonetheless, it is apparent that in order for an athlete’s diet to be considered a “healthy diet” a substantial amount of energy, which comes from carbohydrates, and body build-up, sourced from protein, must be present.
The other key component of an athlete’s “healthy diet” is protein. Protein is the key to healthy bones, muscles, skin, and blood. Foods that contain high amounts of protein include lean meats, fish, nuts, and milk. In general, its safe to say that if an athlete consumes a foundation of mostly carbohydrates and protein, with the addition of fruits and veggies, and water, the athlete has achieved what is called a “healthy diet.”
On the other hand, dieting can also easily turn into something unhealthy and even dangerous for an athlete. Oona Bruss, a Berkeley High School (BHS) senior and BHS volleyball captain, says, “[Dieting] can cause a lot of insecurities and can damage your body image. They can also be super hard to follow and leave you feeling unhappy or unsatisfied.”
While a “healthy diet” can be extremely beneficial, boosting an athlete’s performance and abilities, diets can also be dangerous and too easily manipulated into something more extreme. As a result, both Lana Salve, a lacrosse player at BHS, and Bruss, have never personally dieted and have never had a coach explicitly tell them what to eat and what not to eat. Instead, they recommend elite athletes simply be conscious of what they are putting into their mouths and in general choose the healthy choices, because “a well nourished body always performs better,” says Salve.