Coaches often ask these weight-related questions:
- How can my athletes gain muscle mass and get stronger?
- Why are my players losing so much weight?
- What should my players eat?
Here are some sports nutrition answers coaches can share with their athletes to help them maintain weight, strength and energy levels, and recover properly throughout the season.
Coaches may think “Yeah, yeah, I give them a water break every hour.” But maintaining hydration levels is critical—and it can be complicated at times due to the intensity of the sport/activity, the environment, and the individual. Poor hydration can lead to athletes becoming fatigued and losing weight and muscle.
Communicate to your athletes that they should drink 2 to 3 cups of water before activity, a little water every 20 minutes during activity, and 2 or 3 cups of water post-activity for every pound lost during activity. Sport drinks like Gatorade or Powerade also replenish electrolyte levels, which play an important role in muscle function.
Eat Your Protein
Protein repairs muscle and builds new muscle. Strenuous workouts, practices and games place a great deal of stress on the muscles. If protein consumption is too low, muscles will not be able to properly recover, new muscle will not be formed, and athletes may experience an increase in soreness and recovery time.
Stress to your athletes the importance of consuming protein after any physical activity and throughout the day. They should eat 20-30 grams of protein within 30-45 minutes post-workout and with each of their big meals during the day.
A 20-30-gram serving of protein can take the form of a piece of meat the size of a deck of cards, a protein shake or three eggs.
Eat Your Carbohydrates
Glycogen (the body’s form of stored carbohydrates) and glucose are used along with fat as the body’s main fuel sources. If these are low, protein will be used for energy. As coaches, we never want this scenario for our athletes.
Without a source of carbohydrates, the body won’t create adequate insulin, the hormone that drives glucose into muscle cells. Eating an ample amount of carbohydrates throughout the day will replace muscle energy lost in workouts and keep the body from robbing the muscles of protein for energy.
Your athletes should eat at least 50 grams of carbohydrates with the 20-30 grams of protein within 30-45 minutes post-workout. A snack with at least 50 grams of carbohydrates may be a bagel with peanut butter, a banana and a cup of chocolate milk, or a cup of Greek yogurt with a handful of granola.
Quick and Easy Recovery Meals
Try these recovery meals with your athletes.
- Whey protein isolate shake blended with 1 cup strawberries, 1 cup blueberries, and 1 banana
- 3 eggs and 1 cup rolled oats
- 1 cup vanilla low-fat Greek yogurt with ½ cup granola
- Smoothie with 1 cup vanilla Greek yogurt, 1 cup water, and 2 cups frozen blueberries