By Michael Leonard, GAMMA Contracted Player
As the new year is here, one of the most common New Year resolutions is in the area of nutrition. I will be defining nutrition here as what you put into your body, ignoring physical exercise for simplicity. You can get as sophisticated or as simplistic as you would like with nutrition, but if you don’t enjoy what you are putting in your body, you probably won’t last this first month. Here are some initial questions to ask yourself:
On a scale of 1-10, rate the following items:
- Nutrition is fun for you
- Nutrition is important to you
- Amount of time/willingness to dedicate to nutrition (cooking healthy or eating/drinking healthy)
- Tendency to make healthy eating/drinking decisions
4-14 (Pickleball Level Range 2.0-3.0)
You probably don’t think about what you eat, but what tastes good. You probably don’t think often about if the food you are about to eat is good for you long term, but “this taste good in the moment so it’s good for my soul.”
A couple ideas for you, and have fun with them, otherwise, you probably won’t try them:
- Challenge (or even make it a game) yourself to make an alternative food/drink choice each day
- Example: 1 less soda in exchange for a less sugary option like fruit juice, water, etc.
- Example: Try 1 lower calorie option on the menu each time you eat out.
15-24 (Pickleball Level Range 3.0-4.0)
You may or may not love cooking or nutrition, but you have an understanding of the benefits. If you are looking for places to learn more about nutrition, start with some of these suggestions:
- If you are wanting to learn, phone apps like Nutritional Informer and easy nutrition plans from Google are great places to start. Reach out to your friends and ask questions (also your friend Siri/Google).
- Lowering carbohydrates (if not exercising) and sugary foods/drinks. Look at nutrition labels on food and drinks for the daily percentage of carbs and sugary a person on average should intake.
TIP: If you are playing a lot of pickleball the next day, such as a tournament, carbohydrates for dinner (i.e. red sauce pasta) will give you extra energy for playing.
25-34 (Pickleball Level Range 4.0-4.5)
You are intermediate-advanced in your ways of nutrition and enjoy it. You understand a variety of topics such as the amount vitamins, minerals, fats, carbs and protein to intake, but the “why” behind the nutrition and what you can add or improve could bring all of it together. This could bring you to the next level. You also have likely explored different types of diets like keto, paleo, etc. and may be doing one of them currently.
TIPS (all of the above tips apply as well as these):
- To spice up your nutrition, find 1 new exotic fruit or veggie a week/month to try (every hear of cherimoya or mangosteen, for example? Delicious 😋)
- Understand your specific goals and execute the nutrition plan daily.
- Hard gaining or slim ‘n trim look?
- Gain, maintain, or lose weight/muscle?
- What’s your time frame and why? US Open? Nationals? Just for looksies?
- Learn what ingredients go into what you are eating.
- When in doubt, ingredients you have a hard time pronouncing are probably not good for you.
- Example: Anything than ends in “ose” is “gross.” “Ose” words are sugars and not all are bad in moderation, but it’s a catchy saying.
35-40 (Pickleball Level Range 4.5+)
As this category hits from highly advanced to the pros of nutrition, I’ll do my best to entertain some ideas you may know already and I’m sure you can add to, but here’s some things that come to mind.
Along with every other tip I’ve given thus far:
- Think of additional ways to make everything homemade (organic is typically better) that you might buy pre-made.I make homemade almond milk, for example, and sometimes add peanuts or others to spice it up. This is to avoid the “natural flavors” and all the fillers/emulsifiers (xanthan gum, carrageenan, etc.) as well as artificial flavors that are hard to avoid when buying pre-made anything.
- Continue being curious! YouTube and Google, again, your best friend (Whey vs. Casein vs. Plant Proteins, Vitamins B1, B3, B5, B6, B12? What are all those again? And when should I use them for pickleball? 🤔)
- You can geek out as much as you’d like with bulk-cooking for the week, measuring down to the gram, for your specific goals (As long as it’s fun and you will do that).
Unless you have a nutrition-related job, you have time for it or enjoy it that much, overanalyzing every little thing that you consume can be tiring. Nutritionist can also be a great benefit if you have more specific questions or want a specific plan for you and, of course, talk to your doctors before starting any plan. This article is only informational and not intended to replace a doctor/nutritionist.
Ultimately, if you can make one or some positive nutrition changes now in this new year, you will notice overtime your tendency to be more conscious about nutrition decisions, which in turn will allow for more energy for pickleball.