Sports for kids are supposed to be fun right? It's how you played the game not if you won or lost. Today kids are told that no one remembers second place and that they must win! One saying that still sticks is "2nd place is nothing but the first loser". No wonder over the past 20 years there has been a significant rise in performance enhancing drug use among teens.
The Big Picture
In a world where only the winners count, how can kids get the edge on the competition?
The teenage years are a tough time, because kids want to be liked, respected and admired. Athletes many times are elevated too high for their accomplishments, but kids see it and they want to be in the spotlight! When I get a kid asking about product X,Y or Z? I generally respond with lets look at the big picture. The big picture is how are you training, eating, sleeping and generally dealing with stress? Obviously going over the entire big picture is beyond the scope of this article so I will focus upon the basics of nutrition only.
As a teenager your performance at your next game is dependent upon your nutrition. How you recover between plays and events is directly effected by how you eat before and after the sporting event. Most teens eat about whatever they want, but by eating better you will have better performance.
If you are serious about performance you should eat 5-7 meals daily. When eating to enhance performance you should concentrate on low fat protein, clean (starchy, fibrous and fruit) carbohydrates and limit fat intake.
When selecting protein foods, drop the heavier meats such as: sausage, bacon, hamburger (unless it is 92% lean). These meats are very slow to digest because of the massive amounts of fat naturally occurring in the meats. Choose meats such as lean steak, lean pork, chicken, turkey, fish, egg whites, lowfat milk products and high quality supplemental protein. I personally cut out my steak at least 3 days from an event. Protein should make up 20-30% of total calories. Learn more about beef, click here!
Carbohydrates (carbs) are the body's preferred fuel source. Most kids I know run out of gas quickly because they just don't eat enough. I eat a plethora of different carb sources; breads, pasta, rice, oatmeal, cream of wheat, yams, any fruit or vegetable. You should eat 3-5 fruits and veggies a day just for health reasons, the phytochemicals in them help prevent certain cancers! Carbs should make up to 50-60% of total calories.
A certain amount of fat (10-20% of total calories) is needed in the diet just for basic health concerns such as; fat (cholesterol) donates the back bone for all steroid-hormones, fat is needed for joint health, and brain function just to name a few. To explain the needs for proper fat would require a whole article so I will tell you what you need. Most Americans do not get enough good fat so I suggest getting some flax seed oil or an "efa"(essential fatty acid) oil to make sure you get enough of the right fats.
I take 1-2 tablespoons of Total EFA (Health From The Sun) or a blend called Udo's Choice. I add this to my foods. Some may ask about the other fat - by choosing leaner meats, you will limit the other fat, but also grilling, baking, broiling or boiling your meats will also limit the unneeded fats.
Water is the most overlooked nutrient. Remember both protein and fat metabolism are dependent upon water. Without adequate water carbs can't be stored properly. Most doctors recommend 8-10 eight ounces glasses of water a day - this is too little for a hard-training athlete. I would suggest at least 1 gallon a day if not more. During exercise/competition stick only with water. A few hours before the event or after you can drink stuff that contains electrolytes, but during the event stick with plan old "cold" water. The water will replenish fluid and the "cold" will keep the body's core temperature down, which will help prevent overheating!
In a nutshell, once a young athlete has a good, working knowledge of the basics of the big picture then and only then will I even discuss the use of sports nutrition with them. There are a few that are a must and they are a multi vitamin and some type of essential fatty acid supplement. There are a few supplements I will never suggest they use and they are any type of pro-hormone, herbal testosterone booster or thermogenic aid. Teen athletes don't need higher testosterone so anything that may enhance hormone levels is off limits.
Thermogenics not only aid in fat loss, but they also have the potential of increasing performance, but with the downside of dehydration. Any possible benefits of thermogenics are generally negated by the cramping that most of the time follows their use. When dealing with young athletes I stick with the use of MRP's, protein, carbohydrate type supplements, weight gainers bars and occasionally creatine and glutamine.
The bars and various types of protein powders come in handy between classes. Getting 5-7 meals a day takes timing and for kids in school it is tough to have time to eat a meal between classes, but it would be easy to eat a bar or slam a shake. In an ideal world they would just eat real food.
A weight gain drink could be used by those who need to put on weight in the off season or those who have a problem maintaining weight during the event season. If I have a kid that is Spartan-like with his meals I will consider them using creatine and or glutamine. I generally don't let any of my young athletes use these two because they still have not grasped the whole of the big picture, but the ones who have, with their parents and Doctors permission, I will allow to use them.
I know, I know but they are kids they shouldn't
use these things! I see them as a better alternative to steroids, which like I said before are being used at an alarming rate! Below is a schedule of an athlete that I have been helping for sometime.
Sample Diet & Supplement Plan
Up 6:30 A.M.
8 egg whites, 2 servings oatmeal, 1 piece fruit, 24 oz water (1 multi vitamin/mineral, 1 spoonful of flax oil).
In school-1/2 serving of Pro Blend 55 and a piece of fruit.
1 chicken breast (grilled), 2 cups rice, I cup vegetables (supplements same as meal 1). He brings his lunch.
Pre-practice or game - 2 servings of revenge, 2 cups pasta, 2 pieces fruit and 1/2 serving of Problend-55. During practice - Water, water, and more water.
Post game/practice - 2-20 oz Powerade the new kind that is loaded with
B-vitamins and a nutrition bar... I think he eats the Balance bar that tastes like a Snickers?
2 cups pasta, 1 large salad, 6 oz turkey - bed at 10:00 p.m. (sometimes he will have a Pro Blend-55 shake before bed).
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