By now athletes understand the importance of good nutrition. However, the challenge I faced was to create a diet for high school athletes that was functional, easy to follow and effective in almost any situation.
You don't need to be told how hectic the life of a student-athlete can be. Between school and classes followed by practice or a game, and with homework later, there's no time or energy to prepare six gourmet meals per day. On the go constantly, you're lucky to have three traditional meals. (For more help, see Bridging the Nutrition Gap for the Student-Athlete.)
Sound like you? If your main dietary concern is performance and getting enough quality calories, then I have an answer for you. Stop using lack of time as an excuse to not eat healthy. The following plan can't be any easier to implement. If you say you can't do it, you must really not want it bad enough. The diet works every single time one of my athletes follows through on it. Feel free to make any required modifications based on your workouts and individual needs.
It's a losing battle to expect student-athletes to have the time or desire to eat five cage-free whole eggs and a cup of oatmeal every morning. They crave something tastier, faster and easier to eat. So I would assign pancakes or a bagel (preferably gluten-free) with grass-fed butter and a protein shake mixed with chocolate milk.
Skip the greasy cafeteria food like stale boxed pizza and oily French fries. Taking a page out of Tim Ferriss's book, at the beginning of the week, my athletes cook up grass-fed ground beef to mix with batches of macaroni & cheese. From there, it's easy to portion it out into containers for lunches during the rest of the week.
Another mandatory for my athletes is to pack two to four peanut butter & jelly sandwiches to snack on throughout the day. If you're allergic to nuts, try a nut-free substitute like SunButter or pack grass-fed butter and banana sandwiches. These are extremely easy to make, store, won't spoil and taste good while providing the extra calories you're after.
Another daily snack: cold filtered whey protein powder (in shaker bottles) and a jar of raw peanut butter. Between or during classes and before practice or games, I instruct the athletes to mix up their protein with two to three tablespoons of peanut butter.
This is even easier. For dinner, simply eat whatever your family is making or having. If you have to fend for yourself, cook up something healthy or have more beef/mac & cheese combo. If you're still hungry before bed, have a large glass of grass-fed whole milk and a few more tablespoons of nut butter or nut butter substitute.
Author's Note: Although I wrote this article specifically with basketball athletes in mind, the concepts are applicable to any athlete's needs. This diet is not appropriate for athletes with high body fat levels, but it could be tweaked to implement another strategy of simplicity, although we wouldn't want as many calories in that case.