Diet, Strength & Endurance for Cheer • Part 1 • Diet

These days we as a society are about finding the quickest, easiest way to get what we want when we want it. I tell athletes I coach on a regular basis, it is not that I am lazy; it’s that I want to be as efficient as possible. When cheering in college we referred to that specific mindset as working smarter not harder. Don’t get me wrong, we worked hard. But the amount we could accomplish while maximizing our efficiency was a standard we used to create our foundation at the University of Hawaii.  The point is, if we wish to become the best athlete we can, we need to focus on being the best we can on and off the mat. Being a competitive athlete is a lifestyle and a privilege, take advantage.

How can I prepare? What am I doing to get myself ready to compete? How can I become the cheerleader I was meant to be? There are many things that set us up for success prior to competition. The most nerve racking or most calming moment in a cheerleaders’ life can be the few seconds of silence before the music starts. You may panic and question whether you could have done more to prepare; you may exhale and let the silence calm your nerves and trust you did everything you could. In this three part series we will take a look at how diet, strength and endurance can make or break a cheerleader. But hopefully with a few helpful hints and tips we’ll all be working smarter not harder!

PART 1 – Diet

I am not a dietitian or a nutritionist any more than I am a car mechanic, but it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that you perform better with proper fuels in your body. When you practice, remember, you’re an athlete and your body needs repair following hours of practice. As muscles tear, they need protein to rebuild. As you exert energy, your body will need to recharge in order to prepare for your next endeavor.Putting good foods in to your body will help speed up the process.  Eating well can also be the difference in how we feel during practice.  Eating too much or eating foods without proper nutrients can make us  feel sluggish or lazy during practice.  Feeling light headed or as though we do not have the energy to last an entire routine or practice may be a sign that we need more carbohydrates in our bodies.  What we eat has a direct effect on how we perform. Does this mean you have to eat perfect ALL of the time? The answer is no. It is okay to indulge every once in a while but know this, your body will not rebuild as effectively after eating unhealthy foods or grow as well as it will from healthy alternatives. So when mom and dad start to nag about the junk food and soda, it may be time to switch it up a bit. Instead of the chips, try some celery with a serving of peanut butter!

Great alternatives to help start your day may be some of the following:

  • Oatmeal (try with cinnamon and with a serving of raisins)
  • Egg Whites
  • Cereal (Preferably Low Sugar)
  • Fresh Fruits

There are countless ways to be creative with food. Don’t be worried that healthy eating is boring. If you can, stay away from ‘fast foods’ or the word ‘instant.’ Most of these foods are high in fat or sodium and are nothing but an easy fix for hunger.  Most foods contain large portions of proteins, fats or carbohydrates.   Balancing the three during our daily eating habits can provide a healthier lifestyle.  Eat balanced meals on a regular basis and you will find that your body has more energy and recovers at a faster rate.

For more advice on healthy eating habits, do not be afraid to meet with a dietitian or a nutritionist or even your coach. As young athletes we can become very dedicated and look for ways to gain a competitive edge. While doing so it is VERY important that we do so the right way and stay as healthy as possible.  Becoming more educated with our diet will not only make us stronger and healthier but will allow us to advance in skill at a much faster rate.  Now, if you ask me, that’s working smarter!

In part 2, we discuss strength.

Check back with CheerNN for more insightful and inspirational words from Matt Dillon .

Matt Dillon is a former Royal High School in Simi Valley, and University of Hawaii cheerleader. Matt has been a coaching school and all star cheer for 10 years. He worked as a cheer instructor for CTC, was a Head Instructor for SpiritClub International, he is a current staff member for All Attitude Athletics, Hawaii-Style Cheer Company and a coach for Desert Storm Elite. Matt is the co-founder of The Playhard Project, NPO and currently resides in Scottsdale, AZ.