College students punish their bodies: late nights, grueling parties, marathon study sessions—and all fueled on an inadequate diet. Bud Light and Doritos is not, contrary to popular opinion, the best way to get your vitamins and minerals. Cold cereal, peanut butter, buffets of free doughnuts? Again, a less than ideal regimen for scholarly success. Even if you live far from the comforts of Mom’s kitchen, grinding away on a tight budget and without adequate kitchen facilities, it’s possible to dine well in college. Students need sustained energy, so eating like an endurance athlete helps keep the good times rolling in good shape.
Experts suggest different ratios of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins for runners. Formulas range from 60% carbs, 20% fats, 20% proteins to a 40/30/30 split. Most sports nutritionists agree, however, that endurance athletes require more carbohydrates and (perhaps slightly) less fat and protein. A 50/25/25 distribution seems sensible for college students engaged in an active lifestyle. Yet, most twenty-somethings eat far more fat and protein than carbohydrates—think Spicy Specials, Hamdel heros, hot dogs and burgers and Indian buffets. Although beer’s caloric hit comes from carbs, you can’t live on beer alone.
Rebalancing your diet to match an endurance athlete’s requires rethinking carbohydrates—namely, less “simple carbohydrates”—ice cream, candy, jam—and more “complex” carbohydrates. Soba, wheat bread, whole grains, oatmeal—these foods aren’t expensive, and unleash a regulated stream of energy throughout the day. But when my blood sugar drops, my studying efficiency plummets and I turn into a grouch, fixated on my growling stomach. Sure, I keep halva handy, a box of Girl Scout cookies stashed in my drawer, and a jar of orange marmalade in my fridge. All that nonsense about crashing following a white sugar binge? Totally true—I like candy as much as the next sugar maniac (read: far too much), but I can’t function on black licorice. After reading about The Fruitarian’s extreme raw diet, I decided to try eating more dried fruit. When I feel my blood sugar decreasing, I eat a date or two, which instantly clears my head and gets me through the next 200 pages of Daniel Deronda. The Fruitarian eats six pounds of dates on a 50 mile run—I’ll probably consume a mere half pound by the time I finish George Eliot’s complete works.
Greek yogurt is another excellent choice, since it’s extremely filling. High viscosity foods keep you satiated—don’t argue with science. Thick and tangy yogurt comes packed with protein, too, so whether you went on a 20 mile run or a 20 hour frat row spree the day before, it’s got the nutrients you need for recovery.
The life of a college student really is an endurance contest, a never-ending race to the top: of class, the social pecking order, or a 14-floor residence hall. Obviously, I don’t advocate eating a similar volume of food as an endurance athlete. Instead, think like an endurance athlete when making meal choices.
At this point in the program, I’d like to inform our sports-oriented readers about an internship opportunity. Under Armour notified me about their new summer program, which gives two lucky students a look into the company’s operations (and scholarship money). As an aside, I use some of Under Armour’s HeatGear during the summer (try running in Dallas, early August, close to 100 degrees), so I feel at least quasi-justified in discussing this internship. Apply by May 12th on Under Armour’s facebook page.