When you’re working out as a college athlete, you have to be careful about what you eat. Your diet often reflects your performance and stamina on the field. However, you might be surprised at what foods athletes try not to eat — here’s twenty foods they avoid.
1. Diet soda
Here’s the problem with diet soda: it contains tons of artificial sweeteners, which tricks your body into thinking it’s consuming real food. Essentially this means empty calories and high sugar intake aka not worth the trouble. Instead, try our ideas for healthy drink alternatives.
2. Canned soup
Canned soup is convenient, but is also high in sodium, which translates to higher blood pressure. When you’re an athlete, you want your body to be running at its prime — which means no foods that can hinder your performance.
#SpoonTip: Make miso soup, for a low calorie and nutritious alternative.
3. Rice cakes
Surprised to find rice cakes on this list? Turns out most rice cakes can have a glycemic index as high as 91, which is basically close to pure glucose at 100. Your brain is tricked and tells your pancreas to secrete insulin. Your body performs its best when your blood sugar level is constant, so you’re essentially throwing it off by chewing on these deceptively low-cal snacks.
4. Sugary cereal
It only took a few childhood trips to the dentist to know Lucky Charms was bad for you. Nowadays, it’s still the same. After snacking on some sugary cereal, there’s a spike in insulin which causes your body to store more fat. Obvious truth: the more fat you pack on, the harder it is for your body to burn through its stores to get to that six pack.
5. White bread
White bread, unlike whole wheat, lacks fiber. Food is fuel, and fiber plays a part in maintaining your energy levels. Nix the Wonder Bread and try these healthy study snacks instead.
6. Microwave popcorn
Microwave popcorn is like playing a deal with the devil: it’s massively unhealthy with tons of fat and sodium. Even worse, the bags are often lined with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which is found in Teflon nonstick pans. Gross.
#SpoonTip: Air pop your popcorn instead, which gives it the high antioxidant qualities of a superfood.
Regular pasta that you get at the dining hall has the same nutritional value as white bread. It literally isn’t the best thing since sliced bread, with its empty calories. Whole wheat is the way to go.
8. Trail mix
Store-bought granola or trail mix disguises all sins with its almost nutritious appearance. You think you’re being healthy but the high levels of sugar (and m&ms) say the opposite. Instead, mix together oats and nut butter. Not sure what nut butter to get? We got you covered.
We all like to relax once in a while, but going out every Friday night is taking a major impact on your body. Alcohol slows down muscle recovery, so on Sunday when you’re trying to get your life together at the gym — you end up hurting your body more.
10. Flavored yogurt
You guessed it, Dannon yogurt or other similar store brands, are full of sugar. The “fruit on the bottom” isn’t good for you — opt for greek yogurt panna cotta instead or check out which yogurt brand is best for you.
11. Orange juice
We all love brunch and mistakenly believe orange juice cures the common cold, but it turns out SunnyD has let us down all along. Orange juice has 33 grams of sugar, close to Coca Cola’s 40 grams in a 12 oz serving. You might as well be drinking soda.
12. Salad dressing
Salad dressing may be the hidden culprit holding back your diet, especially when it contains so much fat and sugar. Try olive oil and add avocado if you crave a creamy dressing (to mimic ranch) instead.
13. Deli meat
Here’s what makes waiting in the deli line not worth it: the high salt content in your salami. Not to mention, it also has tons of preservatives from trying to keep it fresh. If you’re looking for protein, lean chicken is a way better choice for your body.
It’s so easy to finish an entire bag of pretzels in one sitting, which makes it effortless to surpass the recommended serving size. On top of that, pretzels lack healthy fiber and fat. Ten twisty pretzels equal a whopping 250 calories.
Even though froyo is often called the healthier ice cream, watch out for the toppings you pile on. All the sugary candy, Oreos and mochi tempt you to go overboard. Moderation is key.
Sure, caffeine can be great for a workout, but heading to Starbucks to get a frappuccino is a terrible idea with its whipped cream and sugary overload. Get your caffeine fix without creamer or sugar instead.
17. Chinese takeout
Beware of the Chinese takeout menus that show up in your mailbox. Not only are you eating inauthentic food, the lunch specials are loaded with deep-fried, greasy dishes. The menu also doesn’t show you the calorie or sodium intake for whatever you order, making it harder for you to know what goes into your body.
We know bacon is beyond delicious, but it has a ton of saturated fat, which can increase your cholesterol and raise your risk of heart disease. Can’t stay away? Try making brussel sprouts and mixing a tiny amount of chopped bacon bits in.
19. Extra protein powder
It’s a highly popular myth that your body needs a ton of protein powder after a workout. However, that’s not the case — your body only needs a set amount and overloading can severely affect your kidneys. Bulk up wisely.
20. Sports drinks
All the commercials show a celebrity athlete draining Powerade or another energy drink after a workout. Unfortunately, it’s more of an excuse to sell a sugary beverage to you — a sport drink can contain up to 35 grams of sugar. Give coconut water a try instead.
From rice cakes to froyo, there’s a ton of foods athletes would never eat. Anything packed with high sugar or fat is a no-go. But it’s important to keep in mind that moderation and having the occasional cheat day is key. Be good to your body because it’s what keeps you going through life to accomplish every goal you want to achieve.