Nutrition for the Athlete
Written by: Connor Thompson
Every serious athlete must have a daily commitment to maintaining adequate nutrition and hydration. For adolescents in particular, nutrition habits directly affect growth, development, wellness, and athletic performance. We are frequently asked questions such as these:
- What should I eat before a practice or game?
- Is eating time-sensitive with physical activity?
- Should I drink water or drink sports drinks for the next game?
- What are some healthy post-game snacks that will help muscle recovery?
There is a lot of misinformation in the media and marketplace that specifically targets young athletes. The purpose of this article is to outline some simple, evidence-based eating practices to ensure peak athletic performance. Due to the high nutritional needs, adolescent athletes must fuel their bodies frequently and consistently throughout the day. If adolescent athletes don’t eat enough, their bodies are less likely to reach peak performance and may break down muscles, rather than build up. They aren’t as fast and/or as strong as they could be. This ultimately increases the risk for fractures and other injuries.
- Eating Before Exercise
- Why? Promotes normal blood glucose concentration and prevents hunger
- What? Consume about 200-500 kcal, rich in carbs/moderate in protein, which are easily digestible
- When? Consume meal 2-4 hours prior to activity
- Avoid? Fatty Foods; Fiber; Energy Drinks
- Examples? Most Breakfast Cereals with Milk; Turkey or Chicken Sandwich; Pasta with Meat Sauce
- Eating During Exercise
- Why? Help refuel and keep energy levels high
- What? 30-60 grams of carbs/hour
- When? If activity lasts more than 60 minutes
- Avoid? Fatty Foods
- Examples? 16 ounces of a Sports Drink; ½ Sports bar; 1 Banana; 1 Orange
- Eating After Exercise
- Why? Allow muscles to rebuild and ensure proper recovery
- What? Water; Carbs; Protein
- When? Consume within 30-60 minutes after activity
- Examples? Sports Bar and Orange; Veggies and Hummus; Banana and Peanut Butter; Healthy meal rich in carbs and protein
- Why? Even mild dehydration can affect an athlete’s physical and mental performance
- What? WATER!! Sports drinks are not better than water unless exercising for more than 60-90 minutes and/or in hot weather
- When? Drink water before exercise, after exercise, and every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise
- Avoid? Waiting until you feel thirsty (thirst is a sign that you’ve been dehydrated for a while); Forcing yourself to drink more than you need (hard to run with a stomach full of water)
Kinetic offers unique additional services that focus on Sports Nutrition for adolescent athletes. Please don’t hesitate to ask us about them!