Nutrition & Health

When Should Athletes Eat Junk Food?

Nutrition is an important component to any student-athlete’s lifestyle; eating the right foods to get the energy to perform at your best is absolutely crucial to be able to contribute to your team and prove to college coaches that you have what it takes.

That’s why we regularly share nutrition tips from registered professionals to help student-athletes succeed.

But student-athletes should be reasonable about their diets.

A wrestling coach in Iowa is fighting against something that can seem deeply embedded in that sport: unhealthy cycles of bulking, then leaning down to a lower weight class.

Because wrestling is based on weight classes, sometimes athletes take unhealthy shortcuts to try to get ahead in their matches.

But the more important thing this wrestling coach says all student-athletes and their parents should remember is that high school should be focused on teaching young athletes lifelong skills:

“A bad diet impacts how you perform,” the coach told Sioux City Journal. “You cannot maintain your mental stability on a bad diet. You need to keep your wits about you, and a bad diet, or improper weight loss gets in the way of that.”

Should athletes eat junk food ever?

Short answer first: Yes.

The longer answer takes a couple of forms.

First, remember that as dedicated as we all are to our sport, this is still high school. While no one’s saying you should binge on as much pizza as you can right before a game, it’s still totally okay to have fun with your friends or go get an ice cream sundae with your date after the school dance.

Should you be more conscious of what you’re eating during your season? Sure. And your coach will probably talk to your team about what kind of nutrients are going to help you perform at your best. It’s important to fuel your body whether you’re a long-distance runner, a basketball player, a swimmer or an offensive lineman.

But crash dieting or depriving yourself of sweets in pursuit of a perfect body or perfect performance isn’t the right answer.

Actually, it might be better if you “cheat” and eat some junk every once in a while. In this article from TeamUSA, some junk food can be good for you — and eating too healthfully can actually negatively affect your workouts:

“In my opinion, there is no such thing as a “bad food.” There is a bad diet, yes, as judged by looking at the whole day’s intake. That is, 50 calories from refined sugar in 8-ounces of sports drink will not ruin your health. But consuming 400 calories from a half-gallon of sports drink displaces a significant number of nutrient-dense foods—as well as can ruin your teeth.”


Whether it’s about how you’re performing in season, how you can be a better student or what it will take to get a coach to notice you, we can help. The best way to get started is with a recruiting profile.

Image credit: (Wikimedia – CxOxS)

About the author
Andy McKernan

Andy McKernan is the content strategist at NCSA Athletic Recruiting. A content marketer with a background in creative writing, Andy brings several years of experience to NCSA.