Youth and teen athletes tend to struggle with healthy nutrition because of eating and being in school. If they miss a meal, some time will pass before they can eat again. For this reason, breakfast is the most important meal of your child’s day since the next meal they will have is lunch. And, with practices after school, they will require energy to achieve maximal endurance and stamina. Therefore, preparation and structure are pivotal when it comes to school and sport.
Not eating enough and skipping meals will cause your teen to struggle at practice or in games. Consuming only supplements, shakes, and bars does not provide suitable amounts of energy. Supplements are not needed if your teen gets reasonable amounts of proteins, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Supplements can cause more harm than good, but it depends on the situation.
For example, if your child is missing breakfast or lunch and hungry before practice, then yes, a protein shake, carbohydrate bar, and banana are advisable 30 minutes before the session. You need the energy to train and play. If your child does not have the power to run around, then it is similar to driving a car with a weak battery. It will not drive well, and when you try to go fast, the car struggles. So, the same happens to the body.
4 Squares Meals A Day
The majority of teens do not even eat 3 square meals a day. They sleep every minute they can until they have to wake up, shower, and run out the door to school. I guess kids value sleep more than food in the morning. A big breakfast is perfect for getting your child through to lunch. And a good lunch will give them energy until practice.
Proteins are building blocks. They rebuild and grow muscles and are not supposed to be used as fuel. Unfortunately, many diets today follow this process. It is not healthy for an active individual like your child because they are still growing. Therefore, they need proteins and amino acids because they build and grow their bodies ‘ foundations.
Examples of good protein sources are:
- Lean turkey, chicken, or beef
- Dairy products
Young athletes need about 1 gram of protein per kg of body weight per day. So, if your child weighs 60kg, they need about 60g of protein a day. Bodyweight in pounds divided by 2.24 converts pounds to kilograms.
Carbohydrates are fuel for the body, just like gas is to a car. To train more and harder, you need energy.
Here are some examples of high-quality complex carbohydrates:
- Whole wheat pasta or bread.
- Whole grains, for example, oats, quinoa, brown rice, barley, buckwheat, millet.
- Sweet potatoes, potatoes.
- Black Beans- 1 cup of black beans contains 16 grams of protein, 12 grams of fiber, 40 grams of carbohydrate, and 2 grams of fat. They also contain iron, potassium, and zinc. Black beans are one essential food that should be in your child’s diet.
- Vegetables and fruits, for example, bananas and mango.
Healthy fats are essential for energy and cardiovascular health. Healthy fats also help lubricate joints. Here are some healthy fat examples:
- Different types of nuts and seeds- Pumpkin kernels, cashews, almonds
Young athletes need to eat four balanced meals a day and snacks in between meals. Each meal should include a vegetable, complex carbs, lean protein, and healthy fat. You can save fruits, seeds, and nuts as snacks or use snacks to get your healthy fat intake.
How to Prepare Good Nutrition
Developing healthy eating habits relies on you. First, you can encourage healthy eating habits from the foods you prepare. Then, your child will mimic your habits and behaviors.
- Teach your child to wake up early to eat a good breakfast like eggs and whole-grain toast.
- Prepare your child’s lunch. You can use whole wheat bread with lean turkey or chicken. Preparing a cup of black beans is also excellent for lunch. They are nutritious and full of energy, and very easy to break down.
- Eat family dinner meals together as often as possible. What you make is what they will eat. So, make it healthy and nutritious.
Make eating a positive experience. Introduce new foods; however, do it in a fun, non-persuasive way. Offer, but don’t force. You know reverse psychology; the more you pressure, the more your child will say no. The more you tell them what they can’t have, the more they will want it.
Here are some game-day eating tips for your child:
To maximize your teen’s performance, focus on more carbohydrates, some protein, and low fat.
- Have them eat their meal 3 hours before the scheduled game time. Carbs should be about 60-70% of the meal with some protein. However, keep the fat portion of the meal low. Fat takes longer to digest. Running around when food is digesting is not a good mix and can cause side stitch cramping. Avoid sugary foods and drinks because blood sugar will crash and slow your teen down.
- If you lose time and eat less than 3 hours, eat lighter, like fruit, a carbo bar, or some toasted bread.
- After the game, eat within 30 minutes and again 2 hours later. Your body needs to rebuild muscle and replenishing energy stores. Consume 20g of protein and about 40-50 g of carbohydrate to rebuild and restore energy effectively within 30 minutes.
The more intense and the time your child trains, the higher their carbohydrate intake should be. Just like your car, the more you drive it, the more you have to refill the gas tank. The body is the same. You need gas to drive the car, and the body needs carbohydrates to perform. Replacement is essential. Protein breakdown is spared and used to rebuild muscles when carbohydrates are replenished. Therefore, protein can build solid, strong muscles and assist with your child’s growth properly.
Eating four meals a day will ensure your child is getting all the nutrients their body needs. Proper nutrition will produce energy, repair muscles, help bones grow, especially from the wear and tear of practice and games.