Millions of youth in America play a structured sport. With the increasing variety of sports, kids are encouraged to participate at younger ages. The competition level continues to rise, making year-round practice and competition feel like a must to reach the top level.
With this type of participation, it is important that nutrient and energy needs meet the requirements for proper growth and development while being able to compete at your best. Equal importance should be placed on developing healthy nutrition habits for athletes at younger ages, along with skill development and strength and conditioning.
“Good nutrition might not make an average athlete great, but bad nutrition can make great athletes average.” – Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Eating right can help provide the energy you need to perform at your best. You are more likely to be tired and fatigue during sports when you do not get enough:
Carbohydrates (found in pasta, bagels, whole wheat breads/crackers, rice, fruit, and starchy vegetables) should make up a little more than half of an athlete’s calorie intake because it is the preferred fuel source for the muscles and brain during exercise.
Focus on eating carbohydrates at every meal, especially one hour before exercise, during exercises (i.e. sports drink, or sports bar) lasting longer than 1 hour, 30 minutes following exercise for energy and proper recovery.
Protein found in lean meats, plant foods (i.e. beans, nuts/seeds) and dairy helps build and repair muscles. It is a myth that a high-protein diet promotes extra muscle growth! The key to muscle development is added calories – or eating more! Especially those carbohydrates!
Fat is essential for athletes. Remember to add a little healthy fat (salmon, tuna, nuts, seeds, olives, olive oil and canola oil, avocado, and nut butters) to every meal.
Brightly colored fruits and vegetables provide antioxidants (Vitamins A, C and E), as well as other essential nutrients like the vitamins and minerals jam-packed in your multivitamin. These natural sources of nutrients help the body get rid of the damaging byproducts that occur after intense training and help protect us from getting sick and feeling too sore.
And yes – it’s important to eat a variety of colors often, because different colors give us different antioxidants and nutrients.
Proper hydration (i.e. having pale-yellow urine) decreases your risk of injury, helps with recovery and keeps you mentally focused. The best way to stay hydrated is to drink throughout the day, within the hour of exercise, during exercise, and after. Rely on water during the day and sports drinks for high-intensity exercises longer than 1 hour for electrolyte replacement.
The first step into healthy eating is to gain awareness of your current habits. You can do this by simply recording what you eat and drink, as well as how much, for three days (preferably two intense practice days and one lighter day). Then, plan ahead by gathering the tools you need to take the initial action steps to help improve your current eating patterns. Put your goals into action and continue to record and build upon the small changes.
Some nutritional goals that most athletes can start out with are:
Whether the goal is to help enhance recovery, increase your competitive side, achieve a certain body composition or decrease your risk of injury, Training HAUS Nutrition Solutions will help you through a personalized and innovative approach based on your age group.
For urgent medical advice or concerns, please contact your clinic directly. For medical emergencies, please dial 911.