Eat Better, Feel Better, Play Better: A Collegiate Athletics Lifestyle

Most young adults struggle with healthy eating. In a college atmosphere, where cookies and ice cream are always available in a buffet format, it’s hard to make those healthy decisions, especially when no one is telling you what to eat.

If you’re an athlete at a high-profile school, you probably have some help. Marist football, though, is not on any kind of diet. 

“We don’t have a team nutritionist, so people kind of eat whatever they want,” said senior safety Andrew McElroy. “Especially because if you don’t try to eat healthy, you’re not going to eat healthy.” To boil it down, without the help of a nutritionist, it’s all about control. 

During football season, both McElroy and his teammate senior wide receiver, Joe Petro, eat about four meals a day. Before practice, they eat something light, such as oatmeal or egg whites. After practice comes another breakfast that usually consists of eggs, like an omelet. For lunch, they have something quick, normally some sort of cold-cut sandwich. Dinner is their biggest meal, typically eating some sort of meat or protein with vegetables and rice.

As McElroy later told me, he never really ate consistently health until two years ago. “I’d say I got into it, I started learning about it, researching it, listening to different youtube videos and podcasts and I was like, ‘Wow that seems like something I would really be interested in,’” he elaborated. “I won’t lie at first it sucks cutting out cookies and sugar and all that stuff.” After taking some time getting used to it, he now enjoys eating healthy.

There are no excuses when it comes to healthy eating. According to McElroy and Petro, there are many healthy options around campus that make it easy to “eat out” and still make smart choices. Petro explained that a lot of people think it’s expensive to eat healthily but, “in reality, you can eat clean on a strict budget.”

There are basic changes you can make to your diet in order for it to be healthier. McElroy and Petro shared some examples: ground turkey instead of ground beef, brown rice instead of rice pilaf, turkey bacon instead of bacon, fruit instead of fries, and Gatorade zero instead Gatorade.

It’s the little things.

“During the season, we are burning so many calories that I’m eating to maintain my weight,”
says Petro. “I am a little less strict with carbs as opposed to during the summer and winter where I am very strict about carbs.” 

As for how eating healthy affects their daily life, Petro explained, “The only time I would want to eat something different is on the away trips.” McElroy added, “Yes, I would rather eat shitty stuff just because sometimes it tastes better but once you get in a routine of eating right and eating healthy it gets a lot easier and you actually begin to enjoy it.”

Everyone craves something sweet once in a while but Petro says, “There’s ways to satisfy them.

“I’d say my biggest cravings are breakfast foods like pancakes and French toast,” he said. “I buy this brand called Kodiak and they make whole wheat mix and whole wheat frozen waffles, so that really helps.” 

As healthy as they eat, McElroy and Petro both have their cheat days. “I will have three cheat meals a week, but in season that usually turns into more like five,” says Petro. “Sunday is a full cheat day,” they both agreed. Their favorite snacks include almonds, peanut butter, sweet potato chips, and whole-grain goldfish.

I asked if there was anything unusual that either of them ate. Petro looked up and laughed, saying, “In the offseason when I go to Chipotle, I’ll bring unflavored greek yogurt as a substitute for sour cream…my friends get so embarrassed to sit with me.” 

McElroy and Petro both try to drink a gallon of water each day. Neither of them drinks soda and are both trying to cut out sugar altogether. Although McElroy will allow “a cookie here and there.” So, essentially, don’t indulge carbs, but sneak a cookie once and a while. Only one. 

Edited by Lily Caffrey-Levine and Will Bjarnar

Header Image by Marist Dining Services

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