Bigger Than Sport

July 29, 2015

In our last two articles, #ConcessionRevolt and Sacrificing Performance, we:

  • discussed how unhealthy food choices may sabotage the effort you and your athlete put into his or her sport;

  • gave you some actionable tips for improving your organization’s concession stand; and

  • suggested that you and your athlete take a look at how the L.A. Lakers are prioritizing nutrition in their programming.

In this article we’ll explore the broader problem how unhealthy food choices affect your athlete in other areas of his or her life.

Inflammatory Foods and Chronic Disease

It’s now widely known that childhood obesity is on the rise and with it type II diabetes. In parallel with childhood obesity is the rise of ADHD. Another alarming trend is the increasing rates of autoimmune diseases in children, including lupus, celiac disease, and type 1 diabetes.

Pro-inflammatory foods, such as those sugar and trans-fat laden products disguised as food in the typical concession stand, prime the immune system to be over-reactive. Sugar, chemicals, and additives in these sorts of processed foods may lead to shifts in gut microbiota (intestinal bacteria), which mounting research reveals impacts behavior and can lead to inflammatory diseases, and inflammation can be linked to obesity.

An over-reactive immune system can mean more sick days - lost practice and game or meet time, as well as lost classroom time.

Inflammation of the intestinal tract is another possible consequence, with or without obvious stomach symptoms and may also be revealed through symptoms such as anxiety, fatigue, brain fog, mood and skin issues, and more. Academic performance and behavior can be negatively affected as a result.

While exercise is essential to wellness, your athlete cannot exercise their way out of these problems. Every precious cell in his or her body need nutrients from fresh whole foods and from foods in which the ingredients have not been significantly modified from their whole food form.

Toxic Ingredients

Convenience foods have made life so much easier in many ways, though, it’s not been without consequence. Preserving food to last a long time and processing it to look appetizing, often includes using additives. Some food additives in the U.S. have been restricted or banned in other countries and others have been linked to endocrine disruption and even cancer. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), as many as 100 ingredients can be hidden under the term “flavorings”. Many additives are considered “generally recognized as safe” and are not regulated by the FDA. Companies can use their own experts and paid consultants for safety approval and not that government.

No parent that I know of would purposely feed his or her child food with potentially toxic ingredients. Yet, it’s unintentionally happening – and often.

Refuse to Compromise

The theme weaved throughout this series of articles is to encourage and empower you and your athlete to nourish your bodies with fresh whole foods so you can be assured that you are avoiding inflammatory, toxic additives. Refuse to compromise your child’s health.

I’ve witnessed how the transition to real whole foods can significantly impact the performance of my athletes but what really ignites my passionate to share - is how these nourishing foods have made a powerful impact in other areas of life such as improved:

  • academic performance

  • focus and attention

  • skin (including a reduction in the typical skin conditions of wrestlers)

  • mood

  • digestive wellness

  • immunity (reduced colds/flu)

  • and more.

I encourage you to engage your child in the process of choosing the foods for your family.

Carefully look for foods that contain as little ingredients as possible and with what you recognize as real food. Commit to eliminating foods that disrupt performance, health, and overall quality of life.

Deceptive Advertising

Beware of deceptive advertising. For example: I came across a “nutrition bar” targeted for children and advertised as “yummy nutrition for active kids,” but when I looked at the ingredients, there were at least 33 of them, not counting the added synthetic vitamins and minerals. This bar received a rating of 7 out of 10 (10 being the worst), in the Environmental Working Group’s Food Scores System, which rates foods on: nutritional value, ingredients concerns, and processing concerns.

A popular powdered sports drink received the worst score of 10 for every flavor analyzed. Not every food item is listed in the EWG’s database, but it will give you a good idea of what to look for and avoid. [Note: I recommend the other EWG guides as well.]

Invest in your Child’s Future

In summary, along with other healthy lifestyle factors, such as appropriate movement, managing stress, having fun, and sleep - the food your child nourishes their body with not only supports their athletic performance, it also supports academic performance and overall short and long term health. Good food supports quality of life.

When you choose nourishing food, you are investing in your child’s future.

I know that taking a stand about quality food is not easy. I have been there! We’re working up to sharing our take on healthy fuel options so stay tuned for our upcoming articles and in the meantime (or anytime!), feel free to ask me for help! Ask your question here in the comments below or visit Hero on Facebook and use #askHolly in the comments there!   

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