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Things To Know About Nutrition for Your Student Athlete (or Yourself)


Parents of student athletes often find themselves in a balancing act of getting the kids to practice on time and making sure their grades and social lives don’t suffer because of their sport. But there’s one factor that might be getting overlooked: nutrition.

Dashing back and forth to practices and hitting the road for games could mean lots of trips to fast food restaurants or worse — skipping meals altogether.

We asked registered dietitian and personal trainer Megan Hovis with Upgrade Lifestyle Inc. how to know when we may need to see a dietitian for our student athlete, and for some nutrition plans we can use for our mini-sports stars (and ourselves).


Watch for behavioral changes, says Megan, who’s been working in the business for 11 years. If your middle school student athlete has no energy for soccer practice or seems to be having trouble concentrating at school, a poor diet could be to blame.

Megan said many high school student athlete eats a tiny breakfast (or none at all) followed by a small lunch at school, and then come home ravenous. That spells trouble for blood sugar levels, which can cause behavioral and concentration issues as well.

You should also watch for bodily changes like weight loss. Student athletes are burning a huge amount of calories, and their diet needs to be packed with nutrients they’re using up on the field.

If your high school athlete is heading off to play at college soon, you might want to meet with a dietitian as well. Megan said many of her clients are college freshmen who need help transitioning to making healthy choices now that they’re buying food on their own (and navigating the health food minefield known as the dining hall).

Megan said in extreme cases, poor diet could cause injury, such as a stress fracture in a female lacrosse player who isn’t getting enough iron.


In addition to determining the obvious — weight, height, sports played, issues, etc., — Megan starts by asking students all their dietary restrictions, allergies, likes and dislikes. There’s no point in creating a nutrition plan that includes eggs for breakfast if you kid won’t even touch them. She also takes into account your family’s schedule and takes specific notes on how much your child is eating and drinking already. Then she’ll look for “holes” or missing nutrients and create a nutrition plan with five-to-10 options for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack. “I start from scratch with every client,” she said. “It’s very individualized to them so they have some say in the plan.” The plan will likely be applicable to the rest of the family as well, and may even inspire everyone to eat a little healthier. “A change in student athlete’s nutrition can benefit the whole family,” Megan said. She also provides dining out guides for those times you have to hit the drive-thru after practice or when the team bus pulls up at a fast food restaurant on the way to a game.


Student Athletes need to focus on variety and balance of food groups. At this age, kids can learn healthy eating habits they’ll take with them into adulthood. Many school-age children tend to have too many empty calories in their diets. They taste good to the student, but are providing little nutrition value. Here are some good places to start:

• Get enough calcium into the diet to support proper growth. Foods such as yogurt, milk, cheese, cottage cheese, homemade smoothies and calcium-fortified foods are good options for young students.
Tip: Try to hit 1,300 mg of calcium per day.

• Eat the rainbow. It’s important to eat a variety of different fruits and vegetables to ensure that your student is taking in enough vitamins and minerals. If they stick to the same few foods (apples, baby carrots, etc.) they will still be missing out on other important nutrients.
Tip: Look for deep, dark color in the produce you purchase.

• Have a healthy relationship with food. Middle school is a critical age for preventing eating disorders and poor food habits. The more the parents can set a good example of well-balanced eating, the better it is for the student.
Tip: Stay away from words like “diet” and “good or bad” foods. Instead try and provide healthy balanced meals with treats in moderation.

• Never skip breakfast. No matter how tired, late, or “not hungry” they are, there is no excuse to miss breakfast. It jump starts their metabolism and starts the engine running so you can be “on” for the rest of the day.

According to the USDA, caloric intake per day for middle school boys is ~ 1,800 (for sedentary students) 2,200 (for moderately active) and up to 2,600 for very active students. Sedentary girls need ~1,400, moderately active students need ~1,800 and very active girls need up to 2,200.
Note: Every student athlete is different. The numbers above are general but each student has a certain set of needs based on height, weight, activity level etc. (that’s where a dietitian can help you). Nutrient needs vary drastically in teenagers depending on their gender, height, weight,and activity level In general, most students need at least 1,500-2,000 calories per day. Very athletic students need 2, 000-3,000+ calories.

Carbohydrate intake: 5-7g per kg of body weight per day
Protein intake: 1.2-1.4g per kg of body weight per day
Fat intake: 20-30% of total daily calories (most coming from healthy unsaturated fat sources)

Top 10 Healthy Maintenance Tips

Top 10 Healthy Weight Maintenance Tips

10. Don’t DIET!
You want to make healthy changes something that you can continue with the rest of your life.

9. Write it down.
Keep yourself accountable for what goes into your body.

8. Eat early and often.
The best way to keep your metabolism revved and energy up is to eat small meals and snacks every few hours.

7. Plan.
It is a GREAT idea to have healthy snacks on hand at all times.

6. Avoid temptations.
Out of sight…out of mind is a great rule of thumb here.

5. Eat S-L-O-W-L-Y.
So often we devour our food in less than 10 min and barely have time to savor it. Your body doesn’t have time realize its full and it is very easy to overeat when eating too quickly.

4. Post workout FUEL.
Remember what you eat after a tough workout is even more important than what you eat before.

3. Have a professional design a REALISTIC nutrition plan.

2. Schedule your exercise as if it were your job or an actual wellness appointment.

1. Think Fit and Healthy.
Remember that you must fuel your body for success and focus on being strong and healthy. You want to try and maintain or gain muscle mass while lowering body fat for overall health. Think strong and fit!

Article by: Megan Hovis, a Registered Dietitian and Personal Trainer with UpGrade Lifestyle. She has a passion for running and is an Olympic Trail qualifier in the Marathon distance running event.

Importance of Strength & Core for Athletes

Importance of Strength & Core Training for Athletes

From Megan Hovis & Sarah Hart, Certified Personal Trainers with UpGrade Lifestyle (former Division I All-American Student Athletes in Track & Field, Cross Country & Swimming)

One of the biggest misconceptions about becoming a better athlete is that you need to solely focus on building speed, stamina and endurance rather than strength and core work. In fact, if an athlete wants to achieve optimal performance, a strong core is imperative. Not only does it help prevent injury, a strong core can greatly improve your form, allowing you to increase speed, stamina, endurance and efficiency.

Core strength for all athletes is especially important. As you near the end of a race or event, when you are especially fatigued, your form may be compromised. This will not only decrease your pace and efficiency, it may open the door to potential injuries. Often athletes experience lower back ache, hip and joint pain. A routine that includes building up core strength will help to maintain good posture, and reduce the pains and potential injuries that result from poor posture.

Having a strong core will set you up for athletic success. Take the time and energy to make it happen!


Healthy Nutrition: It’s as Easy as 1-2-3…

Healthy Nutrition: It’s as easy as 1-2-3…
The most important ingredient to living a healthy lifestyle begins with a Healthy and Balanced Nutrition Routine.

There are 3 steps in the process of being in control of your nutrition intake:
1. Education: it is essential to truly understand your body weight and what it is comprised of (ie, muscle, water, fat, bone, etc.)
2. Motivation: what is it that makes you want to be the healthiest you can be?  Find your motivation.
3. Empowerment: this is when you are consistently making the healthiest decisions and you are able to help inspire others.

Additionally, there are 3 simple ways to monitor your nutrition intake:
1. Quality: making sure you are choosing lean protein, low sugar carbohydrate or gluten free, light dairy or no dairy if lactose intolerant, low saturated fat items.
2. Quantity: generally speaking, keep snacks below 300 cal and meals below 600 cal.
3. Timing: do not go too long without eating; keep your metabolism active!