Updated: Sep 19, 2018
While the title of the blog post caters to teen athletes, the same principles can and should be applied to every child and teen. Teaching healthy habits early on in life can set a child up for success as an adult and help prevent health risk factors and obesity. If you look at the statistics today, over 60% of American adults are overweight. Their unhealthy lifestyle choices and behaviors are being seen and implemented by their children. At that rate, the statistic will continue to grow unless something changes.
Athletes demand nutrients that will help them recover faster and compete at a high level. While teens are primarily playing sports for the entertainment and social aspect, they also want to compete to win. If you are constantly beating down your body without allowing it to recover, your performance will suffer and also your health. You will find your muscles ache, you’re fatigued constantly, and your immune system can also be compromised and you may find you’re getting sick more often.
Nutrition is KEY
Athletes should not stray away from utilizing carbohydrates in their nutrition. Carbohydrates will not only help them replenish lost glycogen levels from intense training and competition, but it can provide vital micronutrients as well depending on the source. Having a constant supply of energy will help maintain performance both in the weight room as well as the playing field.
Teen athletes should be utilizing green leafy vegetables in their nutrition to take in essential micronutrients. They should look to use items like oatmeal and sweet potatoes for complex carbohydrates. The issues arise when teen athletes think that they can eat whatever they want simply because they are active and that’s not necessarily the case. Things such as candy and regular soda can be detrimental to a child’s health, as well as show negative effects later in life. The sugars and simple carbohydrates in these types of products will cause a yo-yo effect with their energy and could cause their performance to decrease when they are on the downward slope of the energy curve.
Foods that are high in protein and healthy fats are also extremely important for young athletes. Teen athletes need protein to rebuild broken down muscle fibers due to their intense training. These broken-down muscle fibers are what help build quality muscle as well as strength – two things that athletes need in order to compete at the next level.
Protein sources to consider are things like beef, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and even different types of protein powder and meal replacement powders like Crush1 Nutrition’s Clean Meal to help supplement their overall nutrition.
Healthy fats should be added as they help with everyday bodily functions, including brain health and hormones. Another benefit of consuming healthy fats is that teen athletes are burning a ton of calories when competing and being that there are 9 calories per gram of fat (more than protein and carbohydrates combined), they will be able to more easily recoup those burned calories so they can maintain or continue building their lean muscle mass. Additionally, healthy fats assist with maintaining healthy joints, something ALL athletes should be proactive with.
Sources of healthy fats could be things like nuts, seeds, nut butters, fish, MCT oil, and coconut oil to name a few.
Start your children off on the right foot by helping them learn what good and bad nutrition choices are. Forming healthy habits now will stick with them and will help continue those behaviors as they get older. It’s much harder to change poor nutritional habits later in life. Therefore, the earlier you can start your child, the better.