by Paolo Verzani (Steinhardt '18)
One of my favorite quotes of all time is by Jean Brillat-Savarin, a french writer, politician, and gastronomist. His famous quote from his book The Physiology of Taste goes, “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are”. Truly, If one were to analyze the diet of the dedicated athletes on our team, anyone could see how active we really are.
NYU rowers train, on average, ten times per week and burn an average of 800-1200 calories per workout. Two of these sessions in one day can put an athlete in, at minimum, a 1,600 cal deficit - - nearly half a day’s worth of energy for the average male athlete. At this point in our lives, the college years, our metabolism is at it’s peak and therefore consistent, high-energy meals are required to make up and prepare for this deficit of energy if the student-athlete wants to simultaneously keep up with his/her training, studies, and health.
In order to keep up with the intensity and duration of the workouts, a rower has to dedicate time and effort to their diet. But, our definition of “diet” doesn’t imply restriction of any sort. Due to the demand of our sport, a consistent eating schedule is necessary if a rower wishes to maintain their energy levels to avoid the risk of falling asleep in class or “crashing” during a workout. Therefore, I have discovered that if I want to keep up with my training and studying, I have to temporarily set aside the rules about “normal dietary practices.” We are taught how to eat based on a 2000-2500 cal/day diet but by the time the clock strikes 3 o’clock in the afternoon, I may have already eaten this much... or more.
Put simply, if I have just completed a 60 minute steady-state piece on the erg, I am probably not interested in eating a salad with grilled chicken and a low-fat dressing - - that is just not enough food to make up what I’ve lost in the workout. By studying Nutrition and Food Studies, I am taught that someone in my position should be eating what is necessary and managing energy without compromise. I have learned that our bodies are like sports cars: one cannot put low-quality fuel in their engine and expect it function the way it should. The best student- athletes are very aware of their diet and if they care about their sport, will design a healthful diet that compliments their active lifestyle to propel them towards success in and out of competition.
A student-athlete cannot compare himself to the average person, because they aren’t average people. They make the choice to wake up at 4:00am and utilize their stored energy for the greater good of their teammates, coaches, families, and their sport. Rowers, in particular, sacrifice hours of time and energy to their conditioning and competition which ultimately is reflected in their diet. Brillat-Savarin would be blown away by fascination of the eating habits of a student-athlete, he would marvel at the dedication and consistency we exhibit towards our schooling, training, and our eating.