Foods and Drinks that Can Hinder Your Performance

Posted on February 01, 2024

As a college athlete it is important to value the impact of good and bad dietary choices on your performance. In this article we’ll look at 6 specific kinds of foods and beverages that run the risk of hindering your athletic performance. Awareness and avoidance of these items are crucial in maintaining optimal performance levels.

1. The Detrimental Effects of Sugary Soft Drinks

Regular consumption of sugary soft drinks provide you with nothing but empty calories and can make your energy levels erratic. Because of the ease of drinking and digestion, these beverages cause more aggressive peaks and valleys with your blood sugar - leaving you with energy levels that are all over the place. In addition, sugar sweetened soft drinks don’t add to your recovery arsenal. You aren’t getting protein, calcium, and potassium, like you would from a glass of milk. Remember, every meal is an opportunity to support recovery and performance.

2. The Drawbacks of High-Fat Fast Food

High-fat fast food items pose a significant challenge to athletic performance. Their high fat content slows down digestion which can lead to feelings of heaviness and lethargy. This can negatively impact your agility and stamina, key components of athletic success. These high fat, high calorie meals also can provide your body with unwanted calories that lack key vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that you could have otherwise gotten.

3. Alcohol: A Hindrance to Muscle Recovery

It only takes a couple drinks of alcohol to impair muscle recovery and sleep quality, two critical aspects of athletic performance. Alcohol acts as a diuretic, leading to dehydration, and it interferes with the body's ability to repair muscle tissue effectively. While drinking may be part of the culture of some college experiences, when you are an athlete looking to be your best - you need to decide which is more important to you.

5. Caffeinated Beverages and Pre-Workout Supplements: A Cautious Approach

Athletes must exercise caution with caffeinated beverages and pre-workout supplements as caffeine is a banned/controlled substance by the NCAA. Excessive caffeine intake can lead to violations of NCAA regulations, with as little as 500mg potentially exceeding permissible limits (urinary caffeine concentration greater than 15 micrograms per milliliter). The consequences include a possible 1 year ban from competition. In the end, research doesn’t show that caffeine has that big of an impact on athlete performance so play it safe and limit your caffeine.

6. Sports Drinks in Non-Training Contexts

While sports drinks can be beneficial during intense physical activity, their consumption outside of these contexts is not recommended. High in sugar and lacking in other essential nutrients (vitamin, fiber, antioxidants, etc), these drinks offer little benefit and can contribute to unwanted added sugar intake when not used for their intended purpose.

As a college athlete, your dietary choices play a crucial role in your performance and overall athletic development. Understanding and avoiding foods and beverages that can impede your performance is a critical aspect of your training regimen. By making informed nutritional decisions, you can enhance your athletic prowess and achieve your full potential.