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Eating right while in college can be difficult. Junk food like pizza, burgers, and fried snacks are readily available on or near campus. Since cooking in dorms is generally prohibited, this leaves few healthy alternatives. The only vegetables in the vicinity may be found in the school’s cafeteria.
Failing to supply the body with the necessary nutrition can lead to all sorts of physical- and mental-health problems. Surviving on fast food may result in illness, fatigue, and other symptoms. College life is stressful enough without putting additional strain on the mind and body.
The situation can be worse for college athletes, who may be under even more pressure than other students. All that stress, along with the physical demands of sports, can be challenging. To stay healthy, and maximize their performance, student-athletes must be deliberate about nutrition.
Eat a Balanced Diet
You have heard it since you were a kid: “Eat your vegetables.” This is especially important for athletes. A variety of veggies, including the super-nutritious leafy ones, should be eaten every day. Fruits, whole grains, and protein are also essential. Avoid fried foods and white bread, and opt for fish instead of red meat a few times a week.
Sugar, salt, and saturated fats sap strength and energy. They also add body fat. These consequences are not only unhealthy; they can diminish an athlete’s performance on the field or court. A long-term effect of consuming large amounts of these substances may be increased vulnerability to illness and disease.
Don’t Forget Breakfast
Nutritionists emphasize the value of eating breakfast. They call it the most important meal of the day, because it replenishes the body after many hours of not eating. The hectic lives of college students require this fuel.
Breakfast is especially critical for those who play sports, as they often have morning practices or workouts. Such exertion on an empty stomach places a lot of strain on the body, which does not respond as well without food energy.
The key is to eat something in the morning, even if you oversleep and are in a hurry. At least grab a bagel and piece of fruit. Always having such ready-to-eat, nutritious items in your dorm room can save you from missing breakfast (or going to a fast-food restaurant). Ideally, the morning meal should include protein (from meat, eggs, and beans) and whole grains, as well as fruit.
Get Enough Protein
Many believe that physically active people should eat a lot of meat and other protein-rich foods. While protein is vital, overdoing it can be counterproductive. Too much protein may result in increased body fat, a loss of calcium, and dehydration. These conditions are particularly undesirable for athletes, who require toned muscles, strong bones, and well-hydrated systems.
The richest sources of protein are fish, beef, pork, and poultry. Dairy is another option. Eggs, as well as the whey protein in milk, are highly recommended. Other foods containing protein are beans, soy, quinoa, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. The best advice is to get protein from a variety of foods.
Those seeking to shed pounds know they need to cut back on carbohydrates, which cause weight gain. However, avoiding carbs can be dangerous because they supply the body with the energy it needs to function properly. Athletes who neglect carbohydrates quickly become tired, and lose strength and endurance.
Carbohydrates are stored in the muscles, in the form of glycogen. The body converts glycogen into glucose (sugar), which boosts energy. Experts say that, for most people, the amount of glycogen the body can hold is enough for a 90-minute workout. Those who play sports, which usually last longer than that, are advised to load up on carbs for several days before the big game. This is really crucial for long-distance runners and bicyclists, swimmers, cross-country skiers, endurance athletes, and others whose activities are not only lengthy but also entail extreme physical exertion.
Candy, soda pop, and other sweets contain a lot of carbohydrates. However, they are considered “bad” carbs because they lack the vitamins and minerals found in “good” (complex) carbs. Whole-grain breads, cereals, and pastas (as well as vegetables, fruits, and brown rice) are examples of foods with good carbs.
Experts advise most people to ensure that carbohydrates make up a little more than half of their total food consumption. Athletes may want to increase the percentage somewhat, without getting too carried away. Diets consisting of 70 percent carbs are recommended for endurance athletes and others whose sports involve long, strenuous exercise.
Eat foods rich in carbohydrates before, during, and after intense physical activities. A small, high-carb meal an hour before a game or workout is advised. Pack a whole-grain muffin, sports bar, or fruit juice to refuel during a sports activity. Replenish the body afterword with a high-carb snack.
Drink Plenty of Water
Athletes must keep hydrated. They should drink water, sports drinks, or fruit juice before, during, and after exercising. Moisture lost via perspiration needs to be replaced, or the body will overheat and eventually break down.
Two cups of water before an activity, and at least one-half cup every 15-20 minutes while exercising, are recommended. Some authorities suggest starting with water, then switching to sports drinks because they contain electrolytes.
Keep drinking through a game or match, even when you don’t feel particularly thirsty. Keep an eye on your urine. If it is darker than normal, that could indicate dehydration. Fatigue, dizziness, and upset stomach are other possible signs that you need more water.
Supplement Your Diet
Student-athletes put so much stress on their bodies that they might find it difficult to get sufficient nutrition from food. Dietary supplements can help. Start with a multivitamin that contains not only Vitamins A through D, but also thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin. The body uses these substances to convert food into the energy that physically active people need. Look for a multivitamin that also features calcium, iron, and potassium. These nutrients are rapidly diminished while playing sports.
Many other kinds of supplements are also available. Omega-3 oils, found naturally in fish, help to regulate inflammation and blood-sugar levels. Athletes need to get enough magnesium, which strengthens muscles and regulates heart rhythm.
For student-athletes, there are multiple reasons to adopt healthy diets. Without the necessary nutrition, their ability to succeed in sports is hampered. More importantly, their overall health suffers. To maintain strength and energy, it is critical that physically active students take nutrition seriously.
You might have heard of the “Freshman 15” syndrome. Most people are known to experience it during the first year of their college. Are you prepared for it?
What is the “Freshman 15” Syndrome?
Most people are observed to gain about fifteen pounds of weight during the first year of their college education owing to their eating habits. It may occur due to the sudden exposure to buffet-styled meals or the personal choice of trying out different junk and fattening cuisines. Nevertheless, the freshman 15 is one of the most dreaded aspects of getting into college.
Some people may experience an advanced version of “Freshman 15” – characterized by gaining more than fifteen pounds of weight. At this stage, the need to employ an effective remedy is highly stressed. On the other hand, those experiencing the lower side of this syndrome – gaining less than fifteen pounds of weight – are at a risk to progress to the advanced level unless an effective counter strategy is employed!
Why “Freshman 15”?
Different colleges have different meal options. Some may offer buffet-styled meals with multiple choices and virtually an endless reserve of food. This promotes binge eating on a frequent basis. You may overeat while making an attempt to try all delicacies – the combined effect of which is seen as fifteen pounds at the end of the year!
Another reason for this weight gain could be the nonexistence of a personal kitchen and/or caretaker. Since you cannot prepare your own food, you are left with no option but to depend on foods prepared by restaurants and/or other food outlets. The foods produced at such places are more often junk containing an alarmingly high amount of unnecessary fats and devoid of other important nutrients. Consequently, when you consume such foods, you tend to end up with fifteen additional pounds of weight you never volunteered for!
Battling the “Freshman 15” Syndrome!
There are a number of ways you can keep your diet under control and ensure you are getting the right foods in the right quantities. However, this usually requires you to make an additional effort. Unless you are willing to go out of your way in order to eat healthy, there is nothing in the world that can help you avoid the fifteen (or maybe twenty) pounds of additional weight!
Here are a few ideas to help you maintain your health while on campus.
- Analyze your food options critically: You need to bring out the detective in you and analyze everything that you consume. Evaluate whether it is good for your health or not before putting it in your mouth. Only then will you be able to avoid unhealthy options.
- Regularize your meal times: Make sure you consume a healthy breakfast before entering your classes. Also, keep a specific time for your lunch and dinner. This will help you in battling hunger and therefore bad food choices.
- Research: Conduct your own research on what is good for your health and what is not. If there is something falling in the shady area between health and illness, login to your computer and search about its nutritional value. You can do so for all foods that you consume. You will automatically find out which foods you should avoid and which ones contribute towards your health!
- Seek Help! Most colleges have nutrition centers and nutritional experts that can help you regulate your food intake. Do not hesitate to approach them if you find yourself indecisive about your food choices. With their effort and your own dedication, you will be able to get your life onto a nutritious track. So you can keep off the weight and enjoy a fulfilling tenure on campus!
Soy milk is great snack, providing 8g of protein and 2g of fiber per 1 cup. It doesn’t need to be refrigerated unless opened and is a healthy alternative to milk. Make sure that the product you choose is fortified with vitamin A, D and Calcium, since it does not naturally contain these nutrients.
Many brands offer convenient formats of 200ml and 250ml bottles, which are easy to carry such as Soy nice and Natura. The natural soy milk and vanilla flavored would be the ones with the least sugar content.
Don’t like soy milk? Ultra High Temperature (UHT) milk does not need to be refrigerated either!
UHT milk has been pasteurized at Ultra High Temperature, which gets rid of the bacteria that usually requires it to be stored at cool temperatures.
These portable packs can be found in most supermarkets next to the milk powder and/or coffee section. The products come in natural, chocolate and vanilla flavored. Choose the unsweetened version more often for a lower sugar protein packed snack.
Fresh fruits are loaded with good-for-you nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fiber and natural sugars. Single fruits like apples, bananas, pears or nectarine are particularly easy to carry.
You can also mix up your favorite fruits in a small container depending on the season like pineapples + berries during summer time and citrus fruits such as tangerines in the winter.
Homemade Trail Mix
What better way to enjoy a healthy sweet & savory snack packed with protein and fiber!
Simply toss together ¼ cup dried fruits like raisins, dried cranberries, blueberries or apricots + ¾ cup whole grain cereal + ¼ cups seeds/nuts.
When choosing a cereal for this snack, look for those that have at least 2-3 g of fiber and less than 10 g of sugar per 30g serving.
Granola bars are an excellent quick fix for the common energy slump that usually kicks in the afternoon!
Make sure you choose the right ones by reading the product’s nutrition label. Look for the bars that have at least 2 g fibre, 2-3 g protein and less tan 10 g sugar per 30g bar.
Some star brands that RDs love, are Kashi, Nature Valley, Q’ia and Taste of Nature.
College life puts a lot of strain on young adults. It is vital that students get the fuel that their bodies and minds require to deal with the academic, social, and other pressures they face. A balanced diet, including vegetables and fruit, is critical. Exercise and sleep also are necessary to maintain physical and psychological health.
However, these good habits may not be enough. To ensure that you are consuming the necessary nutrients, you might want to consider taking vitamins and other dietary supplements. Numerous health-promoting substances are available, though it should be noted that the body absorbs food-based nutrients better than pills.
At a minimum, people are advised to take a daily multivitamin. The ingredients should include Vitamin C, which make you more resilient to illness by improving the immune system; and folic acid, which may lessen your vulnerability to hypertension and heart disease. Multivitamins also typically contain other essential substances like Vitamin B12, zinc, selenium, iron, magnesium, folic acid, niacin, thiamin, and riboflavin.
Look for a multivitamin with a heavy dose of Vitamin D3, which maintains bone density, aids the immune system, and promotes heart health. Student-athletes need this vitamin for strength and agility, and to reduce muscle pain. Vitamin D also can relieve hypertension, as well as depression symptoms like anxiety and insomnia. It is even considered helpful in preventing cancer.
Other nutrients in multivitamins have been shown to protect brain cells and the central nervous system. Multivitamins vary a great deal, so it is important to read the labels. Keep in mind that many nutritionists believe the government’s “minimum daily requirements” for some vitamins, minerals, and enzymes are insufficient. Some of the top-selling multivitamins either lack some needed nutrients or contain inadequate amounts of them. Higher-priced products tend to have greater concentrations of the key ingredients.
In addition to Vitamin C, students may want to consider other antioxidants to help ward off diseases and illnesses. These substances are said to maintain the strength of cells, leaving them less susceptible to cancer and other afflictions.
One of the most widely recommended antioxidants is Co-Enzyme Q-10, which reportedly prevents the sort of inflammation that causes heart disease and arthritis. Those taking cholesterol-lowering drugs need to keep in mind that statins reduce the amount of co-enzyme Q-10 that naturally occurs in the body.
Other antioxidant supplements include reservratrol, which also is found in wine; bioflavonoids such as quercetin, which are natural ingredients of certain plants; and green tea extract. Vitamins A is considered an antioxidant because it protects the eyes and lowers cholesterol. Vitamin E strengthens blood vessels, while folic acid and beta-carotene also have disease-prevention qualities.
The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, marine phytoplanktin, and flax seeds are a form of polyunsaturated fat. This is the good kind of fat, which has been proven to be vital to good health. Because most people do not get enough omega-3 acids from food, supplements are widely recommended.
Authorities say this so-called brain food strengthens cell membranes, and reduces triglyceride levels in the liver that can lead to diabetes. Other benefits include regulating immunity, reducing blood clotting, stabilizing blood sugar, and controlling the kind of inflammation that can lead to cancer or cardiovascular disease.
You need calcium to maintain bone density and strong teeth. While this substance can be obtained from a number of food sources, including dairy products, most people are believed to have calcium deficits. Taking Vitamin D and magnesium with calcium is advised, because they help the body absorb the nutrients. Magnesium also improves the functioning of muscles and nerves, and helps to maintain a regular heart rhythm. It is thought to aid in preventing heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Young people may not think they need to worry about such ailments, which are more often suffered by older people. However, establishing good habits early in life might result in a healthier future. Taking dietary supplements can fill in the nutritional gaps in the diets of college students, who too often try to survive on burgers, pizzas, and fast food.
In addition to the supplements recommended for everyone, some kinds of pills are especially important for certain people. For instance, nutritionists advise women to take iron supplements, while men need greater amounts of selenium. Students whose families have histories of eye disease might want to take multivitamins that contain lutein.
Some companies that sell supplements make unrealistic claims, and no one should believe that taking vitamins will cure any disease. However, dietary aids have been shown to strengthen cells and decrease the likelihood of contracting an illness. The medical and pharmaceutical industries, which want people to buy prescription drugs, have an interest in suppressing the demand for vitamins. Scientific studies of supplements funded by these industries and their supporters should be interpreted with a wary eye.
You need to do your own research, relying on unbiased information from reliable sources. As one herbal dispenser noted, “each individual is responsible for his or her own health.” Be should be sure to not exceed prescribed doses of any substance, as it can be counterproductive or cause other health problems.
Getting started on a regimen of supplements at an early age could pay large dividends not only during the college years, but also throughout your life.
College life is a lot of fun, but for first year students a lot can happen. The change in environment and eating habits often results in ill-health for many college students. Being away from home for the first time, many students do not do a good job at first of taking responsibility for themselves.
Preparing for College
Before leaving home there are some things that you should do to help you cope with the first couple months of college life. Some of these will help you remain healthy and allow you to manage your new routine. Some of these are:
- Going to your family doctor for a check up
- If you have a health condition, get all the facts about your condition and treatment. You will need this information to share with the doctor or clinic at your college and if possible, get a referral to a doctor at your new location.
- Make sure you get all your vaccines before going off to college. This will help to protect you from many avoidable conditions
Keeping Healthy While at College
Many freshmen either lose or gain a lot of weight. Gaining weight is especially easy as many of them start eating junk food. Not many freshmen want to bother with cooking or making an effort to eat nutritious foods. However, eating properly while at college is not very difficult. Ensuring that you eat properly just takes a little planning, which may involve doing the following:
- Start your day with a good breakfast. Try not to go hungry during the day and make an effort to have at least three meals per day. Allowing yourself to go hungry normally results in overeating
- Avoid buying and keeping junk food and unhealthy snacks around. If you have to buy junk food, avoid eating it late at night. For late night study sessions, fruits and vegetables are better choices for snacking.
- Learn about portion sizes as this will minimize overeating.
- Drink lots of water as keeping hydrated helps with concentration and will also help prevent overeating
- Do not eat to relieve stress
- Many young people at college drink, however, do this only occasionally if you decide to drink. You should definitely avoid drinking as a regular part of your everyday activities.
- Take supplements if you are unable to eat properly
Other tips for remaining healthy while at college include:
- Getting adequate sleep is a priority for everyone especially college students. This will help you perform better in class, and will also help keep your immune system working properly. Napping during the day if you have time is a great way to get more rest. You should aim for a minimum of six hours sleep each night.
- Exercising and keeping fit should also be a part of your healthcare plan. Many colleges have gyms and it is a good idea to become a member. You can also do other things to stay physically active, including walking to classes and the library as much as possible.
- Find ways to remain stress free. This can involve joining a social club or group and learning how to handle the pressure of exams.
It is also important to know where the medical center, hospital or other healthcare facilities are located. Also, tell your roommate or someone else in your dorm that you are close to if you have a chronic health condition. In dorms where many students share a bathroom, you should wear flip-flops in the shower. This way, you will avoid fungal infections like athlete’s foot.
Following these basic tips will help you avoid the Freshman 15 (gaining weight) and enjoy your first year of college. Once you develop these habits of healthy living on campus, your remaining years there should be less stressful. You will find that after a few months, it will become easy to maintain good habits in terms of eating, sleeping and keeping active.
Boost Academic Performance by Eating Healthy
Numerous studies have validated the claim that healthy eating boosts academic performance. Students who do not eat breakfast tend to have difficulty in memorizing and paying attention in class. A recent study in Canada followed 6000 students in Toronto schools and showed positive results. 70% said having breakfast boosted their energy levels while 61% exceeded provincial reading standards. Countless studies have also been conducted in the US which also further help in pointing that a well-balanced nutritional diet boosts academic performance and overall health of students in high school.
Mixed-Grain Diet and Cognitive Functioning
Mixed-grain diet has found out to improve cognitive performance in students. A study conducted in 2012 revealed less mental fatigue and higher level of protein in the brain, by eating mixed grains, indicating a healthy brain. Sugary sodas and a junky diet cause childhood obesity which decreases cognitive functioning.
Poor Nutrition and Lower Test Performance
Poor nutrition produces a stress hormone cortisol in excess. This hormone affects the brain and impairs learning, memorizing, paying attention and controlling impulse. Students who eat unhygienic, highly processed poor food have been found to score less on tests and exhibit behavior problems compared to well-nourished students.
A study conducted in 2011 found that drinking milk is associated with better performance. Sweetened beverages tend to impair alertness and understanding. In the study, students who ate regular breakfast scored higher on math tests compared to those who skip on their breakfasts. Other factors which help boost performance on tests include physical activity and eating healthy food.
Regular Breakfast Improves Memory
Regular breakfast no wonder provides with the required nutrition to function properly through the day. One study conducted by Gregory Phillips of college students showed that those who ate breakfast regularly passed their biology exam. It is also recommended to have a snack in between breakfast and lunch. Having a mid morning snack actually improves memory. Blueberries and yoghurt have been linked to improve memory in some studies. A hardboiled egg is also good to have in breakfast as it contains choline, a nutrient which has been found to improve memory in animal studies.
Proper Nutrition Helps Stay Alert
Inadequate nutrition, calories and junk food makes students feel lethargic and participate less in school activities. Eating proper, healthy and hygienic food prevents them from falling ill and helps them stay alert in school and focus on lectures and understand better. It helps the student to be more positive and show enthusiasm for a better learning.
Food Quality and Academic Performance
Spanish studies have found out that the quality of food students has also affected their performance academically. The study showed a direct relationship between food quality and academic performance. As food quality increased, students academic performance also increased. Certain mental processes such as comprehension, memory and concentrationwere affected more than others when food quality differed.
Physical Activity is also Important
Countless studies validate that eating healthy improves functioning of the brain. It helps the mental processes in understanding, interpreting, focusing and keeping alert in school thus, improving academic performance. Proper nutrition is like food to the brain and a balanced diet keeps students both active and prevents them from feeling tired.
Apart from maintaining a healthy diet, daily physical activities are necessary. Eating right is one part of the game, but if students take part in extracurricular activities and stay physically active and fit, studies have found them to perform better in classes. It improves attention and concentration in class. The oxygen which reaches the brain helps with better functioning and also prevents obesity in students.
Get your best rest by establishing a routine
Although it may not seem like it, you are still growing in college. Your body is changing while you’re undergoing new stressors like being away from home, studying more and participating in campus activities. For both your health and your grades, it’s important to create an evening routine and a regular sleep schedule.
Follow a schedule
One of the best ways to insure you get enough quality sleep is to try and maintain the same sleep schedule. If you regularly wake at 8 am for classes on Monday, try to maintain that same waking time throughout the school week. On the weekends, do your best to stick to a similar schedule. If you spend a late night out with friends, do your best to get back on schedule the following day.
Work it out
Establishing an exercise schedule has also been shown to improve sleep. You don’t need to be a die-hard athlete to reap the benefits either. Set aside 30 minutes to an hour most days of the week. You can walk, dance, do yoga or perform a mix of cardio and strength training. It is best to fit in exercise in the morning or afternoon, as evening workouts can actually disrupt sleep.
Make good choices at the table
Deep fried and heavy foods can be more difficult for some people to digest. Focus on incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet and avoid having a heavy dinner, as intense digestion can impair your ability to fall asleep. Sip on water throughout the day to remain hydrated.
Don’t be tempted to skip meals. When your schedule fills up, make sure you are still eating balanced meals consistently. Both overeating and undereating can lead to difficulty falling and staying asleep.
Let go of the electronics
Some studies indicate that the use of electronics before bed can cause sleep disorders. For this reason, it’s best to turn off all electronics at least one hour before bed. Replace this time with light reading, listening to calming music, enjoying a warm bath or meditating. Avoid loud noise and emotionally stimulating books or music. The idea is to begin to turn your brain off for the evening so it can prepare for sleep.
Create a sleep zone
It’s easy to eat, watch movies and surf the web in bed; but none of these habits will do anything to improve your sleep. Save your favorite activities for other areas of your living space and maintain that your bed is used only for sleep. This is a way of training your brain and body to associate your bed only with sleep.
While it may be tempting to fill up on coffee and other caffeinated beverages to make it through a long day of classes, those same habits are likely creating a vicious cycle of poor sleep followed by tiring days. If you choose to include caffeine in your day, make it first thing in the morning so you’re more alert for classes. You’ll likely find that you have less trouble falling and staying asleep, and that you wake more refreshed.
Don’t let deadlines wear you down and keep you up at night. The second you receive an assignment or notification about an upcoming exam, set time aside during the day or early evening to take care of business. If you give yourself plenty of time to prepare, you will decrease the number of late night study sessions and fall asleep with greater ease knowing that you’ve managed to take care of your work.