How to Coach your Athletes to Better Nutrition

Poor Eating HabitsClaire Hargreaves has been in the CrossFit world for only three years, yet she personally has seen how changes in nutrition have helped her gains.

“When I started CrossFit, I was tiny. No more than 45 kilograms. I struggled with the weights and couldn’t do a push-up to save my life. In manipulating my diet, I was able to fuel my training and support my muscle recovery,” Hargreaves said. “I increased my performance considerably. I am now an RX athlete and I feel so confident about my body and its abilities. I just have to share my knowledge.”

Hargreaves is the co-Affiliate of CrossFit Dignus in Perth, Australia, as well as the Box’s nutrition and health Coach. She is studying to get her Bachelor’s of Health Science in Naturopathy as well as a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

With an extensive knowledge in nutrition, Hargreaves said Affiliates and Coaches can tell a difference when a member is following a poor nutrition plan, and when athletes follow a prescribed diet plan. But the important thing to Hargreaves is the ‘why’ behind clients’ desires to change their lifestyle.

“It’s definitely beneficial to have good motivating factors to make changes. I find intrinsic and goal-oriented motivators are much healthier ‘whys’ and I see clients with these motivators making the best progress,” Hargreaves said.

She does not coach athletes to make nutritional changes because she believes he or she should, but instead Hagreaves finds better results when athletes come to the realization themselves.

In coaching athletes to begin following a better nutritional plan, she encourages Affiliates to set performance goals, starting the conversation during a beginner course, and taking the lifestyle changes one step at a time, so as not to overwhelm new CrossFitters with information.

“Coaching clients to get back on track is really about being their support. Listen to their stories, understand and really empathize with why they haven’t followed the plan. Life can get tough and change is tough,” Hargreaves said. “It’s really just the best to encourage your client to jump back on the wagon, forget their ‘bad week’ and move forward with them. Ask them how you can better serve their needs.”

Hargreaves believes Coaches are really “change-moderators,” meaning they don’t instill changes in athletes, but provide knowledge of nutrition and support, and allow members to make the decisions for their own lives.

This method coaching allows for athletes to come to their own realizations along their health journey, according to Hargreaves. “People will start making healthy choices when they can feel the difference. It’s really hard to teach that. I think people need to experience it, and when they do they figure it out for themselves,” Hargreaves said.

In addition to providing coaching and guidance alongside a lifestyle change, Hargreaves suggests Affiliates offer a protein powder that resonates well with clients, as well as supplements, raw bars and bananas. If there’s time, she will occasionally make raw protein balls for clients, so she knows what exact ingredients are fueling athletes.

“Food is an amazing, powerful ‘tool’ we can use to either fuel us, foster our health, or to impede our wellness,” Hargreaves said. “Preparing and sharing food is psychologically beneficial and helps us to experience the present moment. It’s a cultural practice that today’s society is really losing touch with, which is sad.”

Hayli Goode is the former digital editor for Peake Media.

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