When you’ve been an athlete your whole life, it becomes part of your identity. Your life revolves around sport, practice, lifts, games. With this transition from college athlete to “regular person” there are a number of significant changes that happen to not only your identity, but also your lifestyle, and your body.
As a college athlete you spent hours upon hours dedicated to training at a high level. If you’re retiring out of sport, even if you plan to stay active, the amount of time and perhaps intensity of training will likely decrease. Let’s talk through a few ways we can prepare for these changes and support a healthy lifestyle post-sport career.
Your calorie and carbohydrates needs will change
As a highly active athlete you were burning through a lot of energy in the form of calories and carbohydrates. Since you’ll be less active post-college, your total calorie and carbohydrate needs will change. How much will vary person to person and by no means do you need to rush to start tracking your calories.
One thing you can do is work on balancing your plate at meals.
On days when you aren’t active, fill half your plate with veggies or fruit. ¼ of your plate should be lean protein like chicken, fish, lean beef, eggs, tofu, or lentils. The remaining ¼ of your plate would be carbohydrates – focusing on whole grain or fiber-rich choices most often like whole grain pasta, brown rice, whole grain cereal, whole wheat bread, or potatoes.
On days when you exercise, adjust all the portions to 1/3rds on the plate, so ⅓ of the plate vegetables and/or fruit, ⅓ of the plate lean protein, and the final ⅓ of the plate your whole grain or fiber-rich carbohydrates.
You’ll need to learn to grocery plan, shop, and cook
Depending on your school – you may have had meals provided or used a cafeteria, ate out, or ordered in. If you weren’t cooking many of your own meals, this can be all new territory if you haven’t learned certain skills – like grocery shopping and cooking.
If grocery shopping is new for you or something you haven’t mastered, you’ll want to start by creating a grocery list. This will help you save time and money, reduce food waste, and make healthy choices.
There are lots of methods for grocery planning and shopping – one option is to create a list of essentials to stock up on like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, dairy, eggs, whole grains, healthy fats, and of course, some snacks.
Another option is to plan your meals ahead and shop based on your menu. If this is new to you, this may take some time to master, but start by trying to find meals you can bulk cook or that include ingredients you can use for multiple meals like chicken or beans.
For example – shredded rotisserie chicken could work in a burrito bowl, BBQ chicken sandwich, a chicken chili, or shredded chicken quesadillas. Ground beef could be used in spaghetti, stuffed bell peppers, or tacos.
Find a form of movement you enjoy
As you transition out of sport, find a form of movement that feels good for you. This doesn’t have to and shouldn’t necessarily be the same as workouts you did for sport, but staying active will help with both the physical and mental components of the transition. Physical activity is good for energy, mood, sleep, and overall health. It may help to join a group class of some sort or grab a friend as a workout buddy.
Looking for more nutrition and fitness tips on the transition out of college sport? Check out “The Healthy Former Athlete” by Lauren Link, RD, CSSD