In an effort to help its athletes live a healthier life and compete at their highest level, Special Olympics Texas (SOTX) has launched Food for Fitness, a nutritional enhancement program designed to educate people with intellectual disabilities on how consuming healthful foods fuel their bodies to be the best athletes they can be. Following the pilot test in Austin, Houston and Lufkin, Food for Fitness will now be introduced statewide to all 19 SOTX area programs, which combine to serve more than 55,200 athletes.
The program was developed under the Special Olympics Healthy Communities initiative, which strives to provide essential health services to people with intellectual disabilities, a population that is severely medically under-served, despite the plethora of health organizations and programs that exist to serve people in need.
Food for Fitness consists of a plan book with eight lessons and is paired with the Food for Fitness placemat. The lessons and the placemat are designed to teach athletes how the food one eats can improve training and lead to more success during competition.
The eight lessons focus on educating athletes on portion sizes and hydration, making better food choices, explaining which foods are carbohydrates, proteins and fats and how they fit into a healthy lifestyle, which is also depicted on the placemat. The program also seeks to teach athletes how timing of meals and snacks can influence performance. By the end of the eight weeks, athletes have a better food awareness and are more mindful of their eating.
During the eight-week program, little homework is involved. Athletes are expected to track which days they exercised, drank water and when they ate vegetables, fruit, protein and grains.
The goal for the end of the eight-week term is for athletes to see and feel signs of improvement to their overall health and competitive performance.
“We want our athletes to benefit not just in sports, but in everyday life,” SOTX Director of Field Services Norm Arias said. “Life-changing decisions will in turn help them in everything they do.”
The plan book and placemat were designed to be simple, but informative; making the lessons easy for coaches to teach and easy for athletes to grasp. Facilitators are also welcome to add to the lessons as needed.
Results from the pilot test produced rave reviews from the three participating SOTX-area programs. For athletes that were already familiar with the idea of eating healthy, the lessons reinforced what they already knew and helped them recommit to living healthier.
For more information about Food for Fitness or to get the materials, contact Norm Arias (firstname.lastname@example.org) at 512.491.2935.
About Special Olympics Texas
Special Olympics Texas (SOTX) is a privately funded non-profit organization that changes lives through the power of sport by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities, promoting acceptance for all, and fostering communities of understanding and respect. SOTX provides continuing opportunities for more than 55,200 children and adults with intellectual disabilities throughout the Lone Star State to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and experience joy and friendship. To learn more, visit www.specialolympicstexas.org or call 800.876.5646. Engage with us on: Twitter @SOTexas; fb.com/SpecialOlympicsTX; youtube.com/specialolympicstexas.
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