Nutrition for Your Gymnast-- Part 4 in a 4 part series

Nutrition for Your Gymnast-- Part 4 in a 4 part series

Nutrition for Your Gymnast-- Part 4 in a 4 part series

Jul 9, 2013
Nutrition for Your Gymnast-- Part 4 in a 4 part series

My last three blogs have talked about athletes, specifically gymnasts, and the need for proper nutrition, their risk for eating disorders and body image issues.
Whether or not you feel your daughter falls into the high-risk category for disordered eating or a distorted body image- adequate nutrition is still important.

Here are some basic guidelines and tips for helping your athlete eat what she needs to perform at her best and be as healthy as possible:


*You are an example to your family. You can’t expect your kids to make healthy choices if they see their parents skipping meals, overeating or not eating healthily.

*You are probably in control of the grocery shopping---don’t buy a lot of the things you don’t want your kids to eat! Keep your cupboards stocked with plenty of healthy choices.

*Kids will be kids and want to eat some junk food now and then. That’s OK! We are all human, and we all like sugary, high-fat foods sometimes. Moderation is the key. If you “ban” junk food your kids will probably just be more motivated to sneak it somewhere else.

*Girls WILL go through puberty at some point. As much as it’s fun to have a little, tiny, miniature gymnast- at some point they will grow into women. That is OK and normal. Girls need to maintain a certain amount of body fat (12% is essential for women) for their reproductive system to function properly. So- this is when all the great examples of healthy eating you’ve provided them will be the most beneficial.


*Don’t get overwhelmed surfing the web! The best source of nutrition information as recommended by the USDA is at You can literally find all the information you desire about proper nutrition on this site. There are links to all kinds of nutrition info, menus, recipes, snack ideas, shopping on a budget, etc.….

*CARBS ARE OK!! Carbohydrates get a bad rap most of the time. Simple carbohydrates such as sugar and white flour are empty or “junk” calories. But COMPLEX carbohydrates are a healthy and necessary part of an athletes diet. Complex carbs include whole wheat, fruits and vegetables.

*Protein is very important- but not usually lacking in the diets of Americans. The key is to stick to lean protein rather than fatty choices such as hamburger, hotdogs or other fatty meats. Help your daughter learn to eat lean protein such as fish, lean meat and poultry, dairy products, beans, nuts, and soy products.

*Vitamins and minerals- if your kids eat a healthy, balanced diet they will probably get all of the vitamins and minerals they need. I encourage my kids to take a daily multivitamin just to ensure that they are getting 100% of the daily requirement. A multi-vitamin won’t add enough of the fat-soluble vitamins (Vit A, D, E and K are fat-soluble and excess intake is NOT excreted) to cause toxic effects. Jordyn did take a vitamin D and calcium supplement during her growth years to help keep her bones strong.

*DON’T encourage diets or skipping meals. The most important dietary habit for an athlete is to NOT skip meals. They need a steady supply of energy-rich foods to support their workouts. With the long training hours of gymnasts, eating at typical meal times is difficult. An example of spreading calories out during a practice day might look like this: (assume it’s a school day and practice is from 3:30pm-8pm)

6:30am- breakfast
12 noon- lunch at school
3:00 pm- pre-practice snack- mini-dinner
8:30pm- post-practice snack

Each meal/snack should include protein and complex carbohydrates.

*Fluids are essential! Dehydration can lead to injuries. Be sure your athlete drinks plenty of water throughout the day and during practice. Our family likes the new flavorings you can add to water to make it less “boring”.


Greek yogurt with Grape Nuts, almonds or low-fat granola on top
Part-skim mozzarella cheese sticks
Frozen grapes
Snap peas
Carrots dipped in honey mustard
Banana or apple with peanut butter
Fresh fruit smoothie
Whole-wheat pita bread and hummus
Frozen Greek yogurt bars
Trail mix with dried fruit and nuts (watch portion size)
Whole grain bagel (with turkey, tuna, lean roast beef)
Energy or protein bars (watch fat and calorie content)
Low-fat chocolate milk
Low-fat cottage cheese and fruit


The purpose of this blog series was to introduce some topics of potential concern for parents of athletes. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to complete a comprehensive course on childhood obesity during graduate school many years ago. At that time my eyes were opened to the effect of distorted body image, the pressure to be “thin” and the potential for the development of disordered eating. As previously mentioned- gymnasts are at a high risk for body image issues and eating disorders. It is the responsibility of us, as parents, to help our children rise above the social pressures to be thin, skip meals, or engage in other unhealthy behaviors in effort to attain a certain weight.

*Be Your Daughter’s Advocate
If you feel your daughter is facing inappropriate or unhealthy pressure from her coach you need to address this immediately. Coaches are not necessarily experts on nutrition. They may (possibly unknowingly) give improper advice. Pay attention to your daughter’s eating habits to ensure they are not engaging in unhealthy habits based on pressure from coaches (i.e.: not eating after practice).

*If necessary- see a Registered Dietitian for nutrition advice
If you are concerned about your daughter’s diet and want expert advice- meet with a nutritionist or Registered Dietitian. You may have to pay for this service- but one or two sessions can go a long way in providing correct information on healthy eating for your daughter’s specific needs.

*Help your daughter grow into a healthy, beautiful, self-confident woman
What a mother says to her daughter can be very powerful. I believe a mother/parent/or any significant female mentor in a girl’s life is THE most powerful influence. Be a good role model, give frequent compliments, and always express your unconditional love!

For more information on nutrition for gymnasts, read Gym Mom: The Twists and Turns of Your Daughter’s Gymnastics Career sold at or Rita Wieber is a Registered Nurse with a Master’s Degree in Exercise Physiology and Health Education. She has worked in the areas of health, fitness, nutrition and wellness for over 25 years.