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We all know the feeling.

Your body is beat from a brutal morning visual block. ☀️

Your brain is mush from learning a hundred new drill and chorography changes.🥴

Your belly is bloated from inhaling your fast food lunch.🤢

You’d rather dive into a long nap rather than an afternoon marching band rehearsal.🥱

Want to know how to stay focused and energized up through the last run of the day?

Here are 5 tips to keep you going strong all rehearsal day long:

1.Skip the Sugar Surge

Sure, sugar can give you that initial boost of energy but it doesn’t last! The aftermath of a sugar crash can seriously impact your performance on the field. Try to avoid “added sugar” like the one’s found in soda, candy, and other sweets as these don’t provide much other beneficial nutrition. The “natural sugar” found in foods like fruit, milk, and milk products also provide other nutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, protein, and fiber. These are a better choice to provide fuel that lasts! Keep reading to find out how to pair these foods with others to create sustainable energy and prevent the dreaded sugar crash.

2. A Balanced Meal = Balanced Energy

When it come to a midday meal, too often marching athletes opt for what’s quick and convenient rather than what will keep them fueled and fully functioning. Unfortunately, this can leave you struggling to survive the rest of a rehearsal day. When is comes to keeping energy levels optimal and steady the key is keeping your blood sugar in check. The goals is to prevent your blood sugar levels from looking like a roller coaster and more like a gentle wave as seen on the graph below.

Steady blood sugar levels are achieved by eating meals and snacks that are balanced with carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Theses “macronutrients” are broken down into energy and play other important roles in our normal functioning. Carbohydrates are our body’s main fuel source but without protein and fat to even it out, your blood sugar it will spike and drop, leaving you feeling depleted and drowsy. Not enough carbohydrates and your body will start to break down your muscle mass for energy, which can take a toll on our strength and endurance. Incorporating adequate amounts of each macronutrient will help you power through those long hours on the field.

3. Use Caution with Caffeine

It’s a common misconception that caffeine “gives” you energy. What caffeine actually does is block the receptors to the chemical that makes us feel tired. That’s why once the caffeine wears off we often feel even more drained than before. Caffeine can also cause sleep disruptions and worsen symptoms of anxiety. Generally, adolescents should limit their caffeine intake to no more than 100 mg daily. This is the equivalent to about 1 cup of coffee, 2 cups of tea, or 2 to 3 sodas. Just 1 Bang energy drink contains 300 mg of caffeine, that’s 3 times the recommended limit. Besides zapping your afternoon energy, excessive caffeine can stunt brain development and cause bone loss. Everyone reacts to caffeine differently, some are more sensitive to its effects than others. If you choose to consume it, do so carefully.

4. Hype Up Your Gut Health

Your insides ever feel heavy and sluggish during the afternoon block? Your gut health might need some fine tuning. Keep your digestive track grooving by eating high fiber foods like beans, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds with every meal. There are fiber supplements available as well but try to use food to meet your fiber needs first. Fiber does more than preventing you from feeling backed up. It also helps you feel full so your stomach isn’t grumbling in-between reps. More importantly, it slows down carbohydrate absorption to keep your blood sugar steady. Remember, steady blood sugar means steady energy levels.

Warning! When increasing the fiber in your diet, do so slowly and be sure to stay hydrated to prevent some unpleasant side effects like cramps and excessive gas.

Probiotics are bacteria that have many health benefits including keeping our intestines happy. You can find them natural in fermented foods like the ones shown here:

There are also different products that have added probiotics like trail mix, fruit bars, even chocolates! Making probiotic-rich foods a normal part of your diet can better your bowel function and prevent any GI discomfort from distracting you during practice.

5. Don’t Snooze on Sleep

No matter how hard you try, you can’t out eat or drink a bad night sleep. Sleep in not only vital for keeping you alert and energized, but it’s also needed for muscle growth and repair. In addition, sleep aids in taking new information and converting it into long-term memories. All important components to enhancing a marching athletes performance both physically and mentally. If you aren’t getting at least 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night, you’ll likely feel tempted to nod off during the afternoon.

Rehearsing for 8+ hours is rough for everyone. Set yourself up for success by prioritizing your rest and nutrition so you can stay at the top of your game all day long!

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Building muscle in marching band

Building and maintaining muscle mass is essential for marching band athletes to meet the physical demands of performing. Optimal nutrition is crucial for developing the muscle required to reach peak performance on the field. Here are common nutrition and muscle-building questions marching athletes ask.

What should I eat to build muscle?

There are 2 main concerns when it comes to building muscle in marching band; adequate calories and adequate protein. When your muscles are put to work, they break down and rebuild to become bigger and stronger. In order to rebuild, they need enough protein. Protein provides the building blocks that make up every muscle and tissue in our body.

Protein-rich foods can come from both animal and plant products. Our bodies can use the protein from animal products (meat, fish, eggs, and dairy) more efficiently than plant products. This doesn’t mean you can’t be a vegetarian or vegan as a marching athlete, but it requires very careful planning to ensure your needs are being met. Plants sources of protein include soy products (soy milk, tofu, edamame), whole grains (quinoa, oatmeal, brown rice), beans, nuts, and seeds. These also provide other nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It’s best to get your protein needs met from a variety of sources.

Eating lots of protein might not be enough to help your body gain muscle. Without adequate overall calories, your body will use that protein for energy rather than for building muscle. Carbohydrates are our bodies preferred fuel source. Inadequate carbohydrate intake can cause increased risk for injury, decreased focus, early onset of fatigue, and limit overall athletic performance. At least half of your plate should be made up of carbohydrate rich foods. Aim to get most of your carbohydrates from “whole food” sources like fruits, vegetables, dairy, and grains. Avoid added sugars from ultra-processed snack foods and beverages as they don’t provide the extra nutrition like whole foods do.

How much protein do I need?

As a marching athlete, you will have greater needs than the average adolescent, but everyone’s protein needs variety greatly depending on the individual. A general range to shoot for is about 1.2-2 g/kg of your body weight per day. To find your weight in kilograms, divide it by 2.2. For example: 150lb /2.2 = 68.2 kg. That means someone weighing 150 lb should aim for at least 82 grams (68.2kg x1.2 = 82) up to 136 grams (68.2kg X2 = 136) of protein daily.

It’s best to spread out your protein intake evenly throughout the day. About a quarter of your meal or snack should be made up of protein rich foods. So if you need about 100g of protein per day, aim to have at least 25 grams of protein 4 times a day.

What other nutrients are important for building muscle?

Besides protein and carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients play an important role in building muscle mass. Antioxidants like vitamin E, vitamin C, magnesium and zinc help boost muscle recovery and growth. Eating a diet with lots of variety and rich in fruits and vegetables can help you get enough of these vital nutrients.

Looking for a “fun” way to add antioxidants to your diet? Try a Nooma Recovery Soda! They also have ingredients that can help reduce muscle soreness and are anti-inflammatory. Use coupon code MORGAN30 for 30% off your 1st order. (The Cherry Cola and Coconut Lime are my favorites!)

What should I eat after rehearsal or a workout to help with muscle recovery?

Here is an easy way to remember how to refuel: the “25-50-30” rule. It means eating at least 25 grams of protein and at least 50 grams of carbohydrate, all within 30 minutes of finishing activity. Following this rule will help replenish your energy stores and promote muscle growth. Here are a few examples you could try:

  • 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese, 1 cup peaches canned in juice, and 1 English muffin

  • 3 hardboiled eggs, 1 banana, 2 tablespoons peanut butter and 8 oz. of low-fat, chocolate milk

  • 4 oz. of turkey, 2 pieces of bread, and 1 medium apple

  • 6 oz. of Greek yogurt, half a cup of spinach, 1 cup blueberries, 1 frozen banana, and 4 oz. of low-fat chocolate milk blended into a smoothie

  • StarKist Lunch To-Go Tuna Salad and Crackers , 1 cup of grapes, a KIND Bar

Being a successful marching athlete means you have to pay close attention to how you fuel your body. if you have dietary restrictions or are just struggling to figure out how to meet your nutritional needs, reach out to a registered dietitian for guidance and support! Find a local dietitian in your area using the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website: Find an Expert.

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Certain foods can help improve your skill on the field. But, did you know there are some that can drastically hinder it?

Here are some foods every marching athlete should pass-up if they don’t want to end up on the sidelines:

Lonely Carbohydrates

While carbohydrates are an athlete's main source of fuel, eating them alone can cause a spike and drop in your blood sugar which will send your energy levels plummeting. To prevent this carbohydrate “crash” make sure to include protein, fiber, and healthy fat in your meals and snacks. Balanced meals equals balanced energy! So don’t your carbohydrates overtake your plate, give them some other macronutrient teammates to round them out.

Suspicious left-overs

Was the casserole in the back of the fridge made last week or the week before? If you aren’t certain don’t risk it! Food-borne illness from spoiled food can cause major gastrointestinal issues like vomiting, cramps, and diarrhea. Don’t rely on the “smell test”, most leftover food should be eaten within 3-4 days, any longer than that and you could risk spending your day in the bathroom rather than at practice.

Check out the CDC’s website for more information on food safety and how to protect yourself against food poisoning: Four Steps to Food Safety | CDC

Alcoholic Beverages

Even if you are of legal drinking age, any alcohol should be avoided by marching athletes. It provides no nutritional benefit and can inhibit muscle recovery, impair motor abilities, and suppress the immune system. It also dehydrates you and makes it difficult for your body to bounce back from those long hours practicing drill.

Do yourself and your group a favor, exchange the pre or post performance celebratory “Cheers!” with high fives.

Subpar snacks

As a marching athlete proper nutrition is vital. That means you need to be maximizing the nutritional benefit of every bite. Instead of reaching for 100 calorie snack packs of crackers or a sugary granola bar, go with foods that are full of nutrients to strengthen and fuel your body. Fruits and vegetables are a great go-to as they are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients to help you reach peak performance. Pair them with a good source of protein like hummus, hard boiled eggs, peanut butter, turkey jerky, or Greek yogurt and you have a snack that will make you unstoppable!

Meals too full of fat

Save the double bacon cheeseburgers for the off-season! While fat can help you feel full and keep your blood sugars steady, a super greasy meal can make you feel sluggish during rehearsals. Avoid meals primarily made of fatty meats, creamy sauces, and fried potatoes or other starches. In addition to these foods slowing you down on the field, eating them frequently can have long term negative impacts on your heart and general health. Try to choose sources of healthy fats like nuts and seeds, avocados, fatty fish, and olive oil more often.

Remember, as a marching athlete what you do off the field is just as important as what you do on it. Make smart choices on what you eat during marching season, your body and director will thank you!

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