We have all heard the expression “You are what you eat”. Food is important to all of us; we need it to fuel our bodies and help them grow. But with a full schedule trying to balance work, school, family and fun – sometimes healthy food can take a back seat, especially for athletes. In Part One of our Focus on Food, we talked with Trish Clarke, Cheer Sport Sharks coach and bodybuilding athlete, on the importance of healthy food choices. Trish offered some tips to make it easy for parents AND athletes to make the right choices.


Healthy choices = strong athletes! Food choices are CRUCIAL for anyone, but for athletes it is extremely important to be conscious of what you are fueling your body with. As a cheerleader, it is vital to have full energy and strength while practicing to avoid burnout, injuries, and to be able to practice safely and at your full potential. Think of your body as a car. If you run out of fuel, you can no longer drive. The body works the same way. You must put clean fuel into your body to get maximum results!

The less packaging the better! Healthy food choices always include proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Whenever you choose foods, be sure to go with the purest form you can find. Vegetables, fruits, grains, meats, fish, nuts and seeds are the best types of foods to eat. For example, choosing an apple over a package of man-made fruit snacks would be the better option to choose when you can.

Shop Smart! A great rule of thumb to remember when grocery shopping is to shop around the perimeter of the store. Pile up your cart with fresh fruits, vegetables and protein sources like meat, yogurt and eggs. The middle aisles are typically where the unhealthy foods are – so try to avoid them. Some of the worst foods you can put into your body are foods with minimal nutrients, like pop, fast food, fried foods, artificial sweeteners, and foods with high amounts of sugar and salt (example: candy, chocolate, chips).

If you fail to plan, plan to fail! While it’s true that eating well can be tricky and time consuming, the key is to make sure you PLAN AHEAD! You are way more likely to choose poor food choices when you are starving and have no food prepared! Find some time to cook foods and prepare snacks so that you are able to have things on hand and ready to eat. Make the time once a week and use it appropriately to prep for meals and snacks that you can grab easily throughout the week. And forget the fancy Pinterest posts that we all see. Try not to overthink it or make it too complicated. Keep it simple with meals that work for you and your athlete, not what just look good when photographed.

Lead by example parents! Children will always do what they know. When their biggest influences make healthy choices the majority of the time, kids will learn that’s what is supposed to happen and what’s best for them. Allow treats on occasion and avoid deprivation. It’s important to make healthy eating a positive experience!

But I don’t like vegetables! Picky eaters are a tough one! Find the healthy foods they do like and try to figure out different ways of preparing those foods. Avoid forcing them to eat the healthy foods they do not like because when eating becomes an unenjoyable experience, the healthy choices lessen and lessen. One trick to help picky eaters get the nutrients of different foods is to put small amounts into meals they do like. For example: add minimal amounts of mushrooms into chili. They may love chili, but hate mushrooms, but if it’s disguised well, they may not taste it and they still get the benefits!!

Remember: Healthy eating can be difficult in our society. Everything typically leads us to convenient, unhealthy choices. Every time you eat, make as healthy of a choice as possible.


Next week, Part two of Focus on Food will talk about how to make healthy food choices on practice and competition days.


Trish Clarke coaches tumbling privates and semi privates along with team tumbling for Caribbean’s, Lemons, Cookies, Bahamas, and Sailfins. Trish has been an athlete on both Team Canada and Great Whites. She loves the bond made with teammates and the competitiveness of the sport and how cheerleading encompasses so many different athletic abilities including endurance, strength, balance, and power. Now she focuses on coaching and mentoring athletes and is also involved in the sport of bodybuilding.

“I love to work out and condition when I’m not at practice. I got involved in bodybuilding and fitness after I finished my own cheerleading career. I can honestly say fitness and health is my absolute passion! Watching the body grow into a strong machine fascinates me! You are capable of so much”

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