Welcome teen athletes!
Below you’ll find a brief overview of some of the things you should be thinking about if you’re involved in any kind of sport.
Some terms defined:
calorie – the energy within a food – when a calorie reacts with oxygen in the cells of living things energy is released
carbs – any food that is particularly rich in the complex carbohydrate starch (such as cereals, bread, and pasta) or simple carbohydrates, such as sugar (found in candy, jams, and desserts)
supplements – used to add to a diet that is missing any one particular nutrient (such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, fatty acids, or amino acids)
diet – the deliberate selection of food to control body weight or nutrient intake
carb loading – a strategy used by endurance athletes to maximize the storage of glycogen (or energy) in the muscles
vitamins – In humans there are 13 vitamins required: 4 fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) and 9 water-soluble vitamins (8 B vitamins and vitamin C
minerals – chemical elements required by all living organisms. The most common are carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen. Others include: calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, zinc, and iodine
proteins – a nutrient needed by the human body for growth and maintenance
fats – play a vital role in maintaining healthy skin and hair, insulating body organs against shock, maintaining body temperature, and promoting healthy cell function
calcium – keeps bones strong. Foods from the dairy group, including milk, yogurt, and cheese are excellent sources of calcium. Non-dairy sources of calcium include dark leafy green vegetables are also very good
iron – carries oxygen to, and carbon dioxide away from, all the cells in your body. The brain also relies on oxygen transport and without enough iron you will find it hard to concentrate and feel tired and irritable
protein powder -generally consumed immediately before and after exercising, or in place of a meal. The theory behind this supplementation is that having a sufficient protein intake allows for efficient growth and repair of muscle tissue.
sugar rush – massive intake of sugar, the brain responds by releasing endorphins and dopamine into your body that can cause a surreal sense of happiness and euphoria
sugar crash – sense of fatigue after consuming a large quantity of carbohydrates. It is variously described as a sense of tiredness, lethargy, irritation, or hangover
unsaturated fat – Foods containing unsaturated fats include avocado, nuts, and vegetable oils such as canola and olive oils
saturated fat – animal fats such as cream, cheese, butter and ghee; suet, tallow, lard and fatty meats; as well as certain vegetable products such as coconut oil, cottonseed oil, palm kernel oil, chocolate, and many processed foods
steroids – drugs which mimic the effects of the male sex hormones testosterone and dihydrotestosterone. They increase protein synthesis within cells, which results in the buildup of cellular tissue (anabolism), especially in muscles
sweat – the production of a fluid consisting primarily of water as well as various dissolved solids (chiefly chlorides), that is excreted by the sweat glands in the skin of mammals. In humans, sweating is primarily a means of thermoregulation.
sport drinks – Most sports drinks are moderately isotonic (mimic human/sugar composition), having between 4 and 5 heaped teaspoons of sugar per five ounce (13 and 19 grams per 250ml) serving.
caffeine – caffeine tricks an athlete’s brain into delaying the perception of pain and fatigue. More importantly, it also prompts muscles into releasing more of the calcium needed to contract and relax.
How many calories should I eat?
Because athletes work out more than their less-active peers, they generally need extra calories to fuel both their sports performance and their growth. Depending on how active they are, teen athletes may need anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 total calories per day to meet their energy needs.
So what happens if teen athletes don’t eat enough? Their bodies are less likely to achieve peak performance and may even break down rather than build up muscles. Athletes who don’t take in enough calories every day won’t be as fast and as strong as they could be and may not be able to maintain their weight. And extreme calorie restriction could lead to growth problems and other serious health risks for both girls and guys.
I know I should eat a lot of carbs . . .
Carbohydrates are an important source of fuel, but they’re only one of many foods an athlete needs. It also takes vitamins, minerals, protein, and fats to stay in peak playing shape.
Which vitamins and minerals should I be more aware of?
Calcium helps build the strong bones that athletes depend on, and iron carries oxygen to muscles. Most teens don’t get enough of these minerals, and that’s especially true of teen athletes because their needs may be even higher than those of other teens.
To get the iron you need, eat lean red meats (meats with not much fat on them); green, leafy vegetables; and iron-fortified cereals. Calcium — a must for protecting against stress fractures — is found in dairy foods, such as low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese.
In addition to calcium and iron, you need a whole bunch of other vitamins and minerals that do everything from help you access energy to keep you from getting sick. Eating a balanced diet, including lots of different fruits and veggies, should provide the vitamins and minerals needed for good health and sports performance.
Should I be using protein powder?
Athletes may need more protein than less-active teens, but most teen athletes get plenty of protein through regular eating. It’s a myth that athletes need a huge daily intake of protein to build large, strong muscles. Muscle growth comes from regular training and hard work. And taking in too much protein can actually harm the body, causing dehydration, calcium loss, and even kidney problems.
Good sources of protein are fish, lean meats and poultry, eggs, dairy, nuts, soy, and peanut butter.
What carbs are good for me to consume?
Good sources of carbohydrates include fruits, vegetables, and grains. Choose whole grains (such as brown rice, oatmeal, whole-wheat bread) more often than their more processed counterparts like white rice and white bread. That’s because whole grains provide both the energy athletes need to perform and the fiber and other nutrients they need to be healthy.
Sugary carbs such as candy bars or sodas are less healthy for athletes because they don’t contain any of the other nutrients you need. In addition, eating candy bars or other sugary snacks just before practice or competition can give athletes a quick burst of energy and then leave them to “crash” or run out of energy before they’ve finished working out.
What about fat? Should I avoid it?
Everyone needs a certain amount of fat each day, and this is particularly true for athletes. That’s because active muscles quickly burn through carbs and need fats for long-lasting energy. Like carbs, not all fats are created equal. Experts advise athletes to concentrate on healthier fats, such as the unsaturated fat found in most vegetable oils.
Choosing when to eat fats is also important for athletes. Fatty foods can slow digestion, so it’s a good idea to avoid eating these foods for a few hours before and after exercising.
Water or sport drinks?
Water is just as important to unlocking your game power as food. When you sweat during exercise, it’s easy to become overheated, headachy, and worn out — especially in hot or humid weather. Even mild dehydration can affect an athlete’s physical and mental performance.
There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for how much water to drink. How much fluid each person needs depends on the individual’s age, size, level of physical activity, and environmental temperature.
Experts recommend that athletes drink before and after exercise as well as every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty, because thirst is a sign that your body has needed liquids for a while. But don’t force yourself to drink more fluids than you may need either. It’s hard to run when there’s a lot of water sloshing around in your stomach!
If you like the taste of sports drinks better than regular water, then it’s OK to drink them. But it’s important to know that a sports drink is really no better for you than water unless you are exercising for more than 60 to 90 minutes or in really hot weather. The additional carbohydrates and electrolytes may improve performance in these conditions, but otherwise your body will do just as well with water.
Avoid drinking carbonated drinks or juice because they could give you a stomachache while you’re competing.
I’ve heard caffeine will make me perform better?
Caffeine is a diuretic, meaning it causes a person to urinate (pee) more. It’s not clear whether this causes dehydration or not, but to be safe, it’s wise to stay away from too much caffeine if you’ll be exercising in hot weather.
Although some studies have found that caffeine may help with endurance sports performance, it’s good to weigh any benefits against potential problems. Too much caffeine can leave an athlete feeling anxious or jittery. It can also cause trouble sleeping. All of these can drag down a person’s sports performance. Plus, taking certain medications — including supplements — can make caffeine’s side effects seem even worse.
What about game day, should I have an eating plan?
Most of your body’s energy on game day will come from the foods you’ve eaten over the past several days. But you can boost your performance even more by paying attention to the food you eat on game day.
Strive for a game-day diet
rich in carbohydrates,
moderate in protein,
and low in fat.
Here are some guidelines on what to eat and when:
* Eat a meal 2 to 4 hours before the game or event: Choose a protein and carbohydrate meal (like a turkey or chicken sandwich, cereal and milk, chicken noodle soup and yogurt, or pasta with tomato sauce).
* Eat a snack less than 2 hours before the game: If you haven’t had time to have a pre-game meal, be sure to have a light snack such as low-fiber fruits or vegetables (like plums, melons, cherries, carrots), crackers, a bagel, or low-fat yogurt.
* Consider not eating anything for the hour before you compete or have practice because digestion requires energy — energy that you want to use to win.
* Also, eating too soon before any kind of activity can leave food in the stomach, making you feel full, bloated, crampy, and sick.
Everyone is different, so get to know what works best for you. You may want to experiment with meal timing and how much to eat on practice days so that you’re better prepared for game day.
To determine what you should be consuming calorie-wise based on your height, weight and level of activity, use this handy personalized site
More information on the subject of healthy teen athlete eating, check out this site