Since March is national nutrition month, athletes, coaches speak out on the importance of nutrition, health management during the season and the off-season.

Amit+Manchella%2C+track+runner+and+sophomore%2C+eats+lunch+at+school+before+going+to+practice+in+the+afternoon.+Manchella+said+that+his+diet%27s+purpose+is+to+keep+at+his+current+weight.

Lily McAndrews

Amit Manchella, track runner and sophomore, eats lunch at school before going to practice in the afternoon. Manchella said that his diet's purpose is to keep at his current weight.

Aniket Biswal

Lily McAndrews
Wrestler and junior Harel Halevi gets ready for a practice match. Halevi said once the season starts he has little room for cheat days where he can eat less healthy foods.

said he devotes a lot of time toward keeping his body fit for wrestling. Because of this, he said he takes particular care of his nutrition and makes sure he is eating healthy. 

He said, “During the season, I try particularly hard not to eat anything that might make me add weight because I need to remain healthy for wrestling.” 

Halevei said during the wrestling season, he tries to cut back on the amount of food he eats but tries to make all his meals contain a lot of carbohydrates and proteins. However, Halvei said he eats more during the season than he does off-season – sometimes up to six meals a day – to grow out his muscles. 

Wrestling Head Coach Edward Pendoski said the coaches try to educate their athletes about nutrition throughout the year. “Not only how much they burn during practice,” he said, “but also the quality of food that they eat.” Pendoski said he wants his wrestlers to know the science behind healthy nutrition so they know the repercussions of certain foods on their weight and health. 

Pendoski said, “Nutrition in general plays a big part (in) what athletes can do (on) a long-term basis. It wasn’t until about 15 years ago that I truly understood the importance of nutrition and how big of an impact it has on my body and my mental health. Sometimes when I eat poorly, I feel bad about putting in so many calories, but I know that I will have to compensate for it by eating healthier meals for the next few days.”

Halevi made a similar comment about unhealthy meals. He said, “Sometimes during the off-season, I’ll have a couple cheat days where I eat some food that I am not supposed to eat such as foods with high fat content. However, I burn those excess calories off so that my net weight does not change. During the season, all of those cheat days are out the window and I don’t have room for extra calories and fat.”

This mindset is true for athletes in other sports as well. Amit Manchella, track runner and sophomore, said he also watches what he eats, but for him his diet is less about keeping his weight at a certain point and more about being efficient. 

He said, “During the season, I eat a lot of lean protein and carbohydrates because they fuel me for my workouts and help my muscles repair. Also, I make sure that I don’t touch any food with a lot of fat or sugar because I am trying to lose weight, not gain any.” 

As with Halevi, Manchella said that during the season, he cuts back on the amount of food he eats but keeps the quality of each meal consistent so that he maximizes the benefits from the food. 

According to coaches like Pendsoki, those eating habits are noticeable. Pendoski said, “During practice, I can tell who is eating well and who isn’t just based off of how much weight they lose from practice. Those who lose more tend to have better nutrition because they have cleaner body systems that can absorb more nutrients.”

In 2000-2001, the IHSAA instituted a wrestling weight control program that established a minimum weight class for wrestlers. In this program, wrestlers must have at least 7% of their total weight be body fat and can only lose up to 1.5% of their weight each week. This program was established due to the increasing numbers of wrestlers losing drastic amounts of weight per week.

Pendoski said he tries to tell students to “wrestle what you weigh.” He said, “Seven of our 14 guys from our starting lineup did not even have to cut any weight abnormally because of how well they were educated about the types of foods to eat that would naturally lose weight.” 

Along with nutrition, Halevi said he works out to keep his calories in balance. He said, “During the off-season mostly, a lot of my workouts tend to focus on lifting weights and growing my muscles. I don’t throw out cardio exercises but I don’t do many of those but instead I do more exercises with weights.” 

He said he does this to gain the most muscle and lose the most fat at the same time. By using this method, Halevi said he loses weight but also adds to his strength. 

Contrastingly, Manchella said, “I typically run year round as my way of keeping healthy. I usually use weights about once or twice a week but I always run everyday. For me, cardio exercises are a better way of keeping fit since they are more regular and don’t strain my body as much as lifting weights.” This method loses more weight for Manchella but does not add as much muscle to his body. 

Although Manchella and Halevi have different workout plans, they both said that it is important for health management. Pendsoki said he teaches students to workout regularly, but he wants students to be more educated on the science and the effects of nutrition on the body.

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