The (Food) Diaries of a College Athlete

Second-year Ali Sheehy discusses the nutritional requirements of being a college athlete.

By Ali Sheehy

At the University of Chicago, students have a variety of food options to choose from, on and off campus. From the three dining halls to numerous cafés, not to mention the food trucks and, of course, the many restaurants on 53rd Street, there is no limit to what one can get to eat around campus. For collegiate student-athletes, though, planning and choosing meals must be a more conscious and careful decision as there are some important steps and challenges to be addressed. 

First, nutrition plays an important role in one’s athletic performance. As Brian Uhler, a third-year on the UChicago football team explained, “Dieting well is huge for health and for having energy for practice and competitions. There’s a very noticeable difference in my energy level and performance when I am unable to eat as well or as much as I can.” Due to the impact of healthy eating habits, athletes try to include foods with greater nutritional value in their diets. Second-year Alina Brennan on the women’s basketball team, tries to maximize nutrition with each meal. “I focus on balancing my diet to make it as healthy as I can. I always try to add as many fruits, vegetables, carbohydrates, and sources of protein to my meals as I can.” 

While in-season, the demands of workouts cause athletes to adjust their meals and portions. For example, many athletes find the need to eat more considering the number of calories they burn each day during intense practices and competition. Several student-athletes, such as Uhler and Brennan, accomplish this by supplementing their meals with protein shakes and smoothies. According to Brennan,  “Smoothies offer a quick way to get protein and carbohydrate before a workout, practice, or game.” 

The dining halls allow athletes to eat as much as they want, and offer access to many fruits, vegetables, and other necessary foods. However, UChicago student-athletes who live off campus face different challenges than those that live in the dorms or on a meal plan. According to Uhler, there are pros and cons to not having access to the dining halls. 

Pro: Control Over What You Eat

“It’s great to be able to cook what I want; the freedom allows me to tailor my diet to exactly what I’m looking for, and this is especially important during my season.”

Con: Inconvenience

“There’s clearly something to be said for the convenience of the dining halls; if I want to, I can be in and out of the dining hall in 15 minutes and have eaten a full meal.”

A widely-accepted opinion about the University of Chicago is that its students consistently set themselves up for greatness in the classroom, whether that be studying for long hours in the Reg, attending office hours, and so on. Student-athletes at UChicago not only aim for success in the classroom, but they strive for success in their respective sports, clearly demonstrated in the performances of the fall athletic teams this year with impressive rankings within NCAA Division III. Most agree, though, that the first step on that path towards greatness starts with a healthy meal.