How to Eat Clean When You’re Hangry

How to Eat Clean When You’re Hangry

- Rachel Sovka

Elite volleyball training and full-time lawn maintenance work make for a hefty appetite. With the equivalent of 2 full-time jobs under the New Brunswick Summer sun, 2016 AUS 1st team all-star volleyball player, Erin Smith, has found it tough to wrap her head around just how much food she has to consume for fuel.

“My struggle with nutrition is not just about eating healthy, it’s about eating enough,”

And during the SMU volleyball season in Halifax, Erin has to eat just as much to get the proper nutritional intake.

“I try to eat throughout the day - every few hours or so to stay ahead,” Erin says,

“Anyone who knows me well can tell you that if I go more than three hours without eating something, I go beyond the ‘hangry’ stage and well into the territory of ‘emotional hot mess.”

Her words, not mine.

Suffice to say, nutrition plays an integral role in how the body and mind performs for athletes in training.

Erin’s schedule makes that importance clear. On game day, Erin's schedule varies depending on the time of the game. For a 2:00pm game, Erin's day would like something like:

  • 8:00 - 9:00am: Wake up.

  • 9:00 -10:30am: Big breakfast, watch game tape and getting ready.

  • 10:30 -12:00pm: Maybe game tape or homework, relaxing, getting into the mindset for a match.

  • 12:15pm: Taping & heat.

  • 12:30pm: Pre-game meeting.

  • 1:00pm: Warm-up.

  • 2:00pm: Game.

Whereas a 7:00pm game day would like more like:

  • 9:30am: Wake-up.

  • 10:00am: Breakfast.

  • 10:30 - 12:00pm: Homework, relaxing.

  • 12:30pm: Lunch.

  • 1:00 - 4:30pm: Homework, relaxing, game tape (maybe a nap).

  • 4:45 - 5:00pm: Make food to take with me.

  • 5:15pm: Eating, taping, heat.

  • 5:30pm: Pre-game meeting and eating.

  • 6:00pm: Warm-up.

  • 7:00pm: Game.

Go-to meal plans for Erin consist of protein, like eggs, meat, and legumes and plenty of carbs. For breakfast it’s usually eggs, toast, orange juice, yogurt, and fruit. Lunch and dinner can be anything from stir fry to steak and potatoes.

In Erin’s apartment - where her roommates are field hockey players, they eat a lot of pasta and snack on veggies throughout the day.

To get through a game, Erin tends to eat the most about an hour and a half to two hours pre-game. She usually eats based on how she’s feeling at the time, while being mindful of the energy output her gameplay demands. In general, she follows recommendations for what athletes should eat in and out of competition, but notes her diet is very personalized, just like training for a specific sport or position.

“I wish there was a way to teach that,” Erin says,

“every athlete should eat for their needs, and those needs differ between body types.”

Erin elaborated on how unrealistic body image standards permeate from magazines and other media onto the court, into change rooms and into the minds of female and male athletes alike. Erin knows the popular depictions of “bikini bodies” and fad diets are nonsense, but admits it’s hard not to feel the pressures of conformity.

“You feel like you don’t look the way you think you should, but the truth is, body types are all different and depend on all kinds of things from the type of sport you play, to your genetics.”

“I do pretty well with nutrition,” Erin says, “but sometimes you just need ice cream. Or garlic fingers. Or both.”

Erin believes in eating to function and thrive, not to look a certain way. A hard-fought mindset at times. But it’s all about developing a routine, just like in training. It requires planning and meal preparation to excel.

“Otherwise if you don’t, you’re like ‘Well, I guess I’m gonna eat cereal for the sixth time today,’ because you ran out of time to cook something better.”

When healthy eating becomes tedious for Erin it’s not because of food choices, it’s the lack of convenience. She says making all her own meals is great for controlling portion sizes and what type of food she eats. But it can be tough to set aside time in the midst of a chaotic student-athlete life.

When she’s short for time or in a caloric deficit, her favourite snack is banana and peanut butter on a tortilla... or Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

“I do pretty well with nutrition,” Erin says, “but sometimes you just need ice cream. Or garlic fingers. Or both.”

And we think she’s earned it.