By Danette Rivera
Competing and performing at your athletic best is more than just a matter of training, practice and "keeping in shape." Your body needs support in the form of proper nutrition, hydration, and rest in order to keep performing at peak levels.
When you train at a high level, food becomes fuel. You’re not only trying to perform at your best, but as a teen you are still growing and your schedule is probably jammed with many other things like school, homework, training, competing, friends, clubs, work, and family so proper nutrition is so important to not only perform at your best but feel your best, too. A teen athlete needs between 2,000-4,000 calories, and these calories should mainly come from healthy sources. Too few calories will cause your performance to suffer, and for girls, it can negatively impact your hormone balance, leading to long-term consequences on bone health.
So, what should you eat?
Fruits, vegetables, and grains are dietary staples. They should make up three-fourths of every meal. These foods provide carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are your primary fuel source when you're working hard at practice, and you only have a very limited supply of these carbohydrate fuel reserves in your body. That means you need to replace on a daily basis what you use up during exercise. If you don't, you'll be dragging at every practice and workout, and failing to deliver during competitions. These foods are also storehouses for essential vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber. Consume 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day:
• Fruits include apples, bananas, oranges, tangerines, berries, melons, and so on. Whole fruits are preferred over fruit juice. Fresh always beats canned. Frozen is next best after fresh.
• Vegetables include carrots, celery, lettuce, salads, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, green beans, peas, corn, and so on. Again, fresh is best. Try to eat vegetables raw as often as possible. Steamed or roasted with a little crunch is next best. Big salads with a variety of veggies with beans or added chicken makes a great meal.
• When it comes to grains, choose them whole when you can: oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta, sweet potatoes, and whole grain or sprouted bread are great sources.
Protein foods should make up the other fourth of your meals. Healthy protein foods are lean meats, chicken, turkey, fish, nuts, eggs, beans, and tofu. Protein foods provide amino acids, which are the building blocks your body uses to make all kinds of different proteins, including muscle tissue. Protein foods are also good sources of iron, which is an important mineral you need to maintain your energy level. A good, practical way to get healthy protein sources is to bring a couple of sandwiches to school to eat during breaks and at lunchtime. Peanut butter and sugar-free jam, chicken, tuna, and turkey sandwiches, fresh cut veggies all fit the bill. Keep fresh fruit or Clif or Luna bars in your athletic bag. A bag of nuts with dried fruit also makes for a good snack, and the fats in nuts are particularly healthful.
We are not big on dairy, adding some yogurt to your diet can help with digestive health. Some string cheese or cottage cheese as a snack can give you extra needed calcium and Vit D.
Fat is a great source of muscle fuel. Try to steer clear of the unhealthy versions. Fast food, processed snack foods, fried foods are all examples of unhealthy forms of fat with little nutritional value. Long-term, when consumed in excess, these fat sources can be harmful to the heart. Healthy fats are found in fish, such as salmon; and a variety of plant sources, such as nuts, avocados, and vegetable oils like canola, coconut, and olive oil.
The single largest contributor to fatigue during exercise in high school athletes is dehydration. Dehydration can also lead to serious adverse health consequences. Your muscles generate heat during exercise, and sweating helps to cool you off. Sweat is primarily composed of water and dissolved minerals known as electrolytes. Thirst during exercise doesn't kick in until well after you're dehydrated and your performance is already suffering the consequences. Fortunately, dehydration can be avoided, but you need to hydrate before, during, and after exercise. Water is always your best bet. Coconut water is naturally filled with electrolytes. Gatorade has electrolytes, but it is also filled with sugar and not always the best option. You should avoid energy and caffeine drinks. These will give you a boost at first, but you’ll end up dehydrated, full of sugar, and less energized than they started.
Being an elite athlete is not just about training. Nutrition, rest, and stretching play just as much a part in becoming the best athlete you can be.
Here a great resource for healthy recipes:
Here are some good ideas for healthy snacks:
Green Strawberry-Banana Shake
8oz of orange juice
handful of spinach
4-5 strawberries, fresh is best; frozen ok
6-8 ice cubes
One ripe banana
Put all ingredients in a blender, blend until smooth.
Today's Prodigy Workout
10 Floor DB bench press
10 Goblet squats