Back to the basics! There is no magic meal or diet that will “win games”. If you want to be a better athlete listen up. Consume 3-4 high-quality meals with 2 to 3 snacks in between to support health and optimal performance. Discourage from trying new foods on game day or more intense training days when training duration and load are greater. A post-training meal is a key to supporting recovery and training. Simplify the science and empower your athletes to follow my, “25-50-30 rule”.
In addition to two to three snacks for better focus academically, mentally, and physically. Not skipping meals and fueling up can help increase performance, strength, and performance adaptations, and decrease the risk of injuries, and on-set fatigue. More on building a high-performance plate can be assessed here
Nutrient timing 101 Nutrient timing can Consume 25 grams of protein paired with 50 grams of carbohydrates within 30 minutes of activity for reducing muscle breakdown and supporting training adaptations. More information on recovery nutrition is here.
Don’t skip breakfast
Nutrients and calories missed at breakfast by teens are unlikely to be made up for later in the day. Grab-and-go options; hard-boiled egg and fruit, string cheese, banana, Greek yogurt parfait, whole-grain oats, berries, or a whole-grain turkey bagel sandwich. More breakfast ideas to share with young athletes can be found here.
A second breakfast can satisfy energy needs during high-volume and intense training phases or for weight gain. For example, incorporating chocolate milk, peanut butter sandwich, nuts, and seeds with string cheese can help increase calories and nutrition. For additional guidance on fueling your athletes check out this article on practical tips to fueling young athletes as a strength coach.
Hydration is one of the most undervalued performance enhancers available. Water is vital to peak performance. A rule of thumb I encourage is 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight per day. Invest in a good water bottle for your teen athlete to keep on hand. For every pound lost during training, the athlete should replace it with 16-24 oz. of fluid.
A bedtime snack containing 15-20 grams of protein and 30 grams of carbohydrates for restful sleep and growing lean muscle tissue during the night. Cottage cheese, milk, and yogurt are rich in slow-digesting protein. Pair an 8 oz. serving of cottage cheese with sliced bananas for a high-protein, high-magnesium bedtime snack. Magnesium helps relax muscles and lowers brain temperature to regulate hormones.
Eat the Rainbow. Fruits and veggies contain quality nutrients needed for optimal growth and development. The more pigment and color in an athlete’s diet the healthier the immune system they will have that will fight off the risk of infection, and illness, as well as support long-term health. Healthy teens = healthy adults.
Whole meals first supplement second. Supplements are meant to satisfy small gaps in nutrition and to avoid nutrient deficiencies. Good nutritional habits must be established first. For additional guidance to ensure your athletes are meeting their protein and carbohydrate needs check out this article. No supplement can replace whole foods.
In good health and wellness,
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, LD, CISSN
Wendi is a registered dietitian nutritionist and performance coach. She utilizes evidence-based science to tailor nutrition programs for athletes to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. She partners with parents, sports performance staff, and special needs and recreational athletes to offer nutritional guidance and optimal athletic performance and lifestyle plans. Wendi provides virtual services including telehealth but based in Nashville, TN Wendi works with clients of all levels and ages across the US as well as Canada and the UK. You can find more about the NWW team and schedule an appointment on our website.
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