The Eighth Man

A Quidditch Player’s Guide to Nutrition

Australia National University shares a pre-game meal together. Credit: Tashi Roberts

Australia National University shares a pre-game meal together. Credit: Tashi Roberts

It’s the start of a new year and that means that everyone is declaring their New Year’s Resolutions. Each year, people buy into the idea of a new year being an entirely new start and set lofty goals for positive changes in their life. Very common resolutions people make each year include to quit smoking, to become more organized, to be less stressed, or to spend less money, but the most common resolution people make is to lose weight. Weight is a very personal subject, and it has become quite an obsession for most people as they worry about it constantly. It is extremely difficult not to be obsessed, with all the pressure we receive from society to either lose or gain weight to attain what is deemed the perfect body.

 

First off, we all need to really stop using the phrase “lose weight” in almost any statement. I am definitely guilty of using this phrase as is nearly everyone at some point or another, but I’m trying to stop myself, and really analyze what it is I want to do and how I can obtain my goal. So start with asking yourself what your goal is that you are trying to reach. Is it to be more confident in a swimsuit? Is it to play an entire quidditch match without being subbed? Is it to tackle the largest players on the field?  Is it simply to be healthier so you have more energy in your daily routine? So instead of using the phrase “lose weight,” say “I want to build up more lean muscle,” or “I want to burn fat.” Those statements are much more specific and identify what exactly your strategy is to reach your end goal.

 

Once your goal is established you can create a more detailed plan on how exactly you will achieve it, such as a work out or training schedule.  When many people start coming up with these plans, they sometimes discount the importance of establishing a nutritional plan or diet that complements their training as well. Nutrition and fitness go hand in hand and when balanced together you will achieve amazing results in your training and when playing in tournaments.

 

The word diet carries a connotation of being a temporary behavior, when in actuality it simply is a reference to what you eat or drink. Most so-called “diets” fail because they are used as a short-term solution when the real problem most likely requires an overall change in diet. A diet is not a one size fits all solution either since everyone has different nutritional needs, and everyone is going to be training differently. For example, Michael Phelps consumed between 10,000 – 12,000 calories daily when he was training for the Olympics because he needed to keep up with the rate at which he was burning calories.

 

Now, quidditch training isn’t quite that demanding yet, but many teams have very different types of training ranging from high intensity to lower intensity, and on top of that individual players have different work out schedules they accomplish on their own. Despite this variance, there are still many good dietary practices to follow when training that apply to everyone. These practices are meant to enhance your training, and come game time, you will notice a significant difference and improvement in your performance.

 

 

Drink Water

If you could make one dietary change today that would make the biggest impact on your game, it would be to drink more water. Most people have heard the 8 x 8 rule which is to drink eight 8oz glasses of water a day, but most people lose more water than that daily and so their water consumption should be more than that amount. How much water you should drink a day will be unique based on your weight and activity level for that day. Typically, your body loses approximately 2 quarts of water for every hour of strenuous physical activity, so it essential to drink plenty of water before, during and after all practices and games.

 

Gatorade and other sports drinks are also great sources of hydration especially during long workouts or during tournaments when your body is losing electrolytes and other nutrients water doesn’t provide. While training, sodas and alcoholic drinks are the two main types of beverages you should minimize in your diet. Sodas are excessively sugary, and they have a enough sodium that will cause you to be thirstier and will negate the hydrating effects of water. Alcoholic beverages exhibit diuretic effects, which means that they cause you to lose more water and nutrients through excessive urination than what you are taking in. Caffeinated beverages can also exhibit some diuretic effects. The key is moderating your consumption of these types of drinks and making sure to continue drinking plenty of water to cancel out any of the negative effects these other beverages can cause.

 

 

Balance Your Diet

Everyone has heard of the food pyramid and the ratio of different types of foods we are supposed to eat each day to ensure we get all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients we need. Following that ratio every day, especially in college, is extremely difficult as we find ourselves eating more simple carbs than complex carbs, eating more bad fats than good fats, and simply consuming much more protein than our body needs. In some cases a person could be cutting out one of these macronutrients entirely from their diet, either intentionally as in the case of someone trying to lose weight or unintentionally as in the case of someone who is a vegetarian or vegan. Our body needs all these to function at its best and to help athletes perform at their highest level. A basic diet roughly consists of 55% carbohydrates, 20% proteins, and 25% fats.

 

 

Carbohydrates

Poor carbohydrates; they are so misunderstood. Low carb or no carb diets have been fads for quite a while, but hopefully with more research in place these fads are fading out of their popularity. Typically, with these types of diets you are not addressing the root problem, but simply masking it with a temporary fix. The root problem is that people consume too much white bread, pasta, rice, and other sugars that are all simple carbs. These foods are the culprits of the fast weight gain usually associated with carbohydrates as a whole. The solution here is very simple: substitute complex carbs for the simple carbs. Complex carbs are comprised of whole grains, fruit, vegetables, and legumes, which are most commonly seen in the form of beans.

 

Complex carbs provide your body with lasting energy because they break down sugars over a longer period of time, allowing the energy to remain stored in your body. Simple carbs usually provide a so-called sugar high that takes effect immediately but dissipates just as quickly. These carbs are best to eat right before a practice or game to jumpstart your energy levels. However, when training and preparing for a tournament it is very important to increase your complex carbohydrate intake to balance all the energy you are exerting regularly or plan to be exerting in a long game where the snitch has been going about his antics for 45 minutes and shows no signs of slowing down.

 

 

Proteins

Proteins are the macronutrient most responsible for muscle growth and strengthening. If you are attempting to either maintain or gain muscle then it is vital you incorporate the appropriate amount of protein into your diet. The recommended amount a person in training should consume a day is roughly 0.8-1.2 g of protein per each kilogram body weight for men, and 0.6-1.0 g/kg for women.  However, you need to be cautious when consuming more proteins when you are training because you can inadvertently consume more calories and saturated fats as well which will negate the positive effects of your training.

 

Beef and pork can contain quite a bit of saturated fat depending on what cut or type you get, so usually chicken, fish and turkey are better choices when seeking a lean protein. Egg whites are another fantastic source of protein and make a great after workout snack or meal. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you will have to find your protein in beans, soy, whole grains, nuts, and protein supplements. It is definitely going to be a bit more difficult to attain your allotted intake of protein everyday, but it will just require a bit more awareness on your part about what you are eating.

 

It is common practice nowadays to work out or practice and then go home and make a protein shake to help promote muscle growth, but the powders to make these drinks can be pretty pricey. However, why pay more on these additives when the real magical after work out drink is simply milk? Milk is the best drink out there to promote muscle growth after a work out as it contains both whey and casein proteins. It also contains sodium and potassium to help rehydrate you. Chocolate milk is actually the best type of milk to consume in this case because it contains some sugars that help your body break down proteins. People are under an allusion that all these different powders will help build muscle fast, when in reality they have proven to be no better than milk or the whole food proteins mentioned above.

 

 

Fats

The last macronutrient our body needs is fat, which probably has the worst reputation of them all. Fats are an important part of our nutrition as they can provide us great health benefits and transport different vitamins throughout our body to be used. When people say they want to cut out fats from their diet, what they usually mean is that they want to reduce their consumption of saturated and trans fats which supply us with no dietary benefits, only health problems. Saturated fats are most commonly seen as animal fats that come from foods like butter, red meat, and cheese. Trans fat comes from mostly processed foods.

 

The fats our body does need are split between unsaturated fats and Omega-3 fats. Some of the best sources of unsaturated fats include olive or vegetable oils, nuts, soybeans and avocados, while Omega-3 fats can be found in fish. Avocados specifically are another great food to incorporate into your diet when training because they promote muscle development and help increase your metabolism.

 

 

Don’t Skip Meals

Sometimes when people feel they eat too much for one meal or are just too busy to eat, they will skip meals thinking that it’s not a big deal. When someone skips meals regularly though, it can have very negative affects on their nutrition. For starters, skipping meals causes your blood sugar to bounce up and down, which can really mess with your insulin levels making it more likely for you to develop diabetes later in life. This habit also leads to your metabolism to slow down. Your metabolism works while you are eating to break food down, so if you are not eating regularly it will start to slow down since your body isn’t using that function as often. Many studies suggest that eating five to six small meals a day is the best way to go to avoid slowing down your metabolism.

 

 

Be practical

Making any change in your life is going to be very difficult and require a sense of practically. If you are seeking to be more healthy, then setting lofty goals is great, but most people aren’t going to be able to change all their eating habits from one day to the next. I have found the best way to go is to make small changes over time because it is the best way to change your overall diet for the long run and not just a few months. You could start today by deciding to eat out less and cook in more where you can better control the types and amounts of food you are consuming. Then a week later you could start substituting chicken and fish for burgers and ribs. A month later you could start cutting out fried foods and sodas from your diet. You don’t have to use those changes or timeline, but the point remains that your body will react better if you give it time to adjust.

 

One of the worst things a person can think is that because they worked out they can now eat whatever they want. Yes when you work out or play a quidditch game you are going to be burning plenty of calories, but that does not mean you should always go straight to replacing those calories by eating unhealthy food. Allow yourself to indulge every once in awhile without feeling guilty. These foods just need to be had in moderation and portioned properly, not stricken entirely from any diet.

 

The Boston University team shares a snack during a tournament. Credit: Katie Stack

The Boston University team shares a snack during a tournament. Credit: Katie Stack

 

Tournament day myths

Nichole Galle, a graduate and former quidditch coach at Texas A&M, is currently studying physical therapy in graduate school. Here she provides a few tournament or game day myths in regards to nutrition.

 

Myth: You must eat tons of carbs in between games.

Fact: Eating carbs the day of a tournament isn’t going to do much besides keep you full (which may be what you’re looking for). Your body takes a while to process them, so carbs at breakfast are good for games in the late afternoon, but that bowl of pasta for lunch is probably not going to do anything besides sit in your stomach. When you exercise, blood preferentially goes from your stomach and other organs to your muscles, which is what leads to cramping if you exercise right after eating. The best snacks between games are fruits and vegetables. Sugar in moderation is fine – it breaks down quickly enough to give you an energy kick-start, as with all other simple carbs.

 

Myth: Don’t eat anything and play on an empty stomach.

Fact: While this will help in the short term (by not weighing you down), you need to replenish yourself throughout the day. While the complex carbs you eat will take a while to digest, your body needs food regularly in order to keep blood sugar levels normal, which means your muscles will be able to constantly take up energy. This is obviously very important for playing games throughout the day.

 

Myth: Carb load the night before.

Fact: While this helps a bit, if you truly want to carb load, you need to start about 5 days in advance, and taper off your exercising before the big day (but don’t stop completely – just lower the intensity). This allows your muscles to take up more glucose during recovery and store it, making it readily available come game day.

 

 

Overall, your diet is going to be personal and unique to you and your goals, so you shouldn’t be trying to match specifically what someone else is doing. Go online and do some research to help you gather more details on what you should be eating and drinking to enhance your training and performance. Your diet can improve your game in ways that practice and working out cannot. Improving your diet can help improve your endurance and strength, and lower your chance of getting injured.

 

A great resource to get more information on nutrition is www.choosemyplate.gov.

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