The Gymnastics Kitchen With Betsy: 'All In' With Nutrition, Pt. 2

The Gymnastics Kitchen With Betsy: 'All In' With Nutrition, Pt. 2

In part 2, I will break down the struggles and give answers to each of the problems coaches, gymnasts. and parents deal with in going all in with nutrition.

Dec 6, 2017 by Betsy McNally
The Gymnastics Kitchen With Betsy: 'All In' With Nutrition, Pt. 2

In part one of this two-part article, we discussed going "all in" with nutrition in the sport of gymnastics. In part two, I will break down the obstacles to healthy nutrition and give answers to each of the problems coaches, gymnasts, and parents deal with in going all in with nutrition.

Parents: Time is the issue!

Parents often don’t have time to prepare healthy foods. They are busy with their other kids, eating together as a family is nearly impossible, time is limited, and because of our hurried, fast-paced lifestyle, parents are going through the drive-throughs buying convenience or processed foods. Plus there's picky eaters and allergies to throw into the chaos.

Coaches: Frustration

In response, coaches are frustrated because their athletes aren’t performing to their ability. Their athletes are over- or under-weight, getting hurt, balking during practice., and coaches think the parents aren’t taking their counsel to eat healthy seriously. Gymnasts don’t necessarily want to listen to them because sometimes the coach herself or himself is eating fast food during or after practice and not being a great example either. It’s frustrating for coaches because they can see that fitness and nutrition is lacking in their athletes but they don’t have the tools to fix it.

Gymnasts: Confusion

Meanwhile, the gymnasts are tired, sore, getting hurt, and as they go through puberty they feel insecure and question their talent. Many suffer from cloudy brain, lack of energy, difficulty putting on muscle, or are putting on weight they never had before. All of this is a direct response to the processed foods, lack of water, and preparation put towards food preparation. They aren’t sure why they are feeling this way, but also aren’t buying the food and some are lacking in education in the right foods to eat. It’s terribly challenging for a young girl going through body changes to do gymnastics.

Betsy's Response

I have empathy for all of the struggles — from the parent to gymnast and coach — and a response to each from the heart.

To the Parents

Your kids are worth it to make a lifestyle change!

I am the mother of two small boys age one and a half and three and a half. I travel two to three times a month and have a successful online fitness and nutrition business that I run alone. I am the primary supporter of my family as my husband works part-time and is the primary caregiver to my children (a huge job in and of itself).

Time is limited; however, at the age of 43, I am living the lifestyle I preach to my gymnasts, coaches, and parents. I prepare my foods when traveling and exercise every single day. I make time for that. It is a priority because I want to be around longer, be healthy, and be true to my word. 

If I can do it, so can you. 

And I also understand that some kids are picky eaters. 

My three-year-old son has autism and was born at two and a half pounds. He is nonverbal and for the first three years of his life, he could not and would not eat solid food; he could barely drink a bottle for the first year of his life. He is extremely underweight, and until five months ago I had to puree everything he ate. I had to get creative, but it was an absolute nightmare that I had to work at every day. 

So for parents who have picky eaters, I feel you, I understand you, but we have to work at it everyday. Your gymnast child needs to be eating green leafy vegetables, clean carbohydrates and healthy fats, calcium, lots of water, and a balance of foods.

If you are focused on there not being enough time to prepare healthy foods, I want you to think about the effect his has on your gymnast.

The saturated fat and added sugars in these foods add to the inflammation that your child is dealing with on a daily basis with this sport. Not to mention any preservatives, chemicals, or added sodium found in many convenience foods. These extras that help withstand the shelf life of these foods are not helping your child heal, recover, get faster, think clearer. It may be a quick fix, but ultimately, it is having a negative affect. 

My recommendations are to take one day a week to prep food, read about healthy foods for athletes, get educated on better food options, and return to the table with your family. Make a better effort to put your family’s food choices in the forefront. You will see changes in everyone in the family and better success from your gymnast. You are already putting in so much time, effort, and money — this may be the missing component.

To the Coaches

I understand your struggles, as I was myself a coach and work directly with coaches all the time.

If you are running a gym or running a program, you are dealing with parents, staff, and schedules.

Have a professional come in and talk about nutrition to your kids to reinforce the importance of fuel for the gymnast. Send out nutrition tips and try them yourself. Create a culture of clean eating in your gym. It may sound like one more thing to do, but if we are asking our athletes to eat clean, we have to give them the tools.

One last tip: if you are “out of shape,” getting in shape yourself will motivate your athletes. I guarantee they will see your hard work and have more respect for your advice. You don’t have to be a perfect athlete, but show them that clean eating and exercise is part of your life too.

To the Gymnasts

If the below statements are true, I want to encourage you from my heart to go all in with your nutrition:

You train 20-24 hours a week in the gym.

Your parents are spending thousands of dollars on the sport.

You want to go far in the sport.

You are often tired, sore, or lacking in energy.

You stress about your body weight or image.

My question to you is this: how bad do you want it? How far do you want to go? If this is a hobby and you just want to have fun (which is totally fine) your nutritional choices are more flexible, of course. But if you want to go further, become a level 9, 10, receive a college scholarship, or become an elite then going all in with nutrition is going to take you to the next level.

Start packing your foods, preparing ahead of time. Talk to your parents about starting a clean eating plan, go grocery shopping with them, and choose foods that are clean and that the whole family can enjoy. Lastly, decide within yourself that you want to make a lifestyle change. Don't just “go on a diet" or do it for your coach or your parents — do it for you.

In Closing

All gymnasts need balance. If you can go all in for seven out of every 10 meals you eat, then you are on your way. I want to encourage you to just try to go all in for one week. See how you feel. Do you have more energy? Do you feel lighter, tighter, and quicker? You can message me and tell me your answer, but I think I already know what it will be.

If this article speaks to you, let me know! My goal is to help gyms, coaches, parents, and athletes create a clean eating culture so all gymnasts can stay healthy, recover, and have fun in this sport. The future of gymnastics is positivity and support for our gymnasts who deserve the best. I want to be a part of that culture!

Betsy McNally-Laouar is a sports nutritionist who works with gymnasts around the country, creates meal plans, conditioning plans and bootcamps online and in person. Contact her at or follow her at Betsy McNally-Laouar Gymnastics Nutrition and Fitness Specialist