The stakes are higher than ever for young athletes. Many are striving to achieve or keep college scholarships or qualify for a particular school’s athletic program. Training begins younger than ever before as well, with parents supporting and encouraging their children to reach for the stars. It is well known that healthy exercise and eating habits established in childhood set kids up for nutritional success later in life. It is also obvious that student athletes must take care with their diet and training choices throughout their career to avoid risk of injury or negative effects on their overall growth.
If you are a student athlete or have one in your life, these tips, trick and suggestions may reveal some areas in nutrition and training that can be improved.
Fuel Your Performance
Eating healthy foods that relate to calories burned and nutrients depleted during an athlete’s particular sport is extremely important to athletic success. Nutritious vegetables, fruit and complex whole grains will fuel your performance and help your body recover after a game or training.
Quinoa is a great choice for any meal for any person but is especially helpful for athletes. It is actually a sprouted seed, and you can see evidence of this after it is cooked. The cute little ‘tail’ that develops outside of the germ shows that some sprouting has occurred. Nutritionally, quinoa is considered a complex grain that is full of sustainable energy, 8 grams of protein per cup and contains all nine amino acids essential to our bodies for lean muscle mass and recovery. It is a versatile food and can be eaten in the morning like a porridge, in savory applications as a pasta replacement, and even in cold salads for a protein and energy boost.
Did you know that there are some diets that suggest participants eat almost nothing but bananas? That is obviously extreme, but bananas are a power packed snack that are something like nature’s solid equivalent of a sports drink. Eating a banana pre or post workout replenishes electrolytes, potassium and delivers vitamin B6 which can help ease inflammation in the body.
Slice a few on healthy whole grain granola, your quinoa porridge or drop them into a smoothie to start your day. Keep one on hand in your gym bag for quick refueling after activity. They conveniently come in their own natural wrapper.
Kale gets a bit of good natured flack for being hipster-ific. It is a very trendy food at the moment but the facts behind its nutrition certainly back up the claims to fame. It is iron rich, has high levels of vitamins K, A and B6 and, like bananas, has some anti inflammatory properties. It is also full of antioxidants that can combat stress. It’s high fiber content can keep athletes full longer without any feeling of bloat or weighed down feeling.
Pop some kale into your salad with or without quinoa for an easy way to incorporate it. It can be lightly sauteed, dropped into soups and even mixed into smoothies! Believe it or not, with some berries and a banana, you won’t even taste it. It ends up milder than even lettuce.
Foods That Can Slow You Down
For as many foods that help your performance, there are foods that should get a big ‘NO’ from young athletes.
High Fructose Corn Syrup
This may seem obvious, but candy is not a good way to boost energy related to working out or athletics. It can spike the blood sugar, offers no nutritional value, and can result in rebound hypoglycemia, that dreaded sugar crash.
Some experts cite milk as a great post workout refueler but it is not optimum for ingestion before workouts. It takes a long time to digest and can contribute to an excess of mucus in the body. Nobody wants a runny nose or congestion in their throat in a situation where breathing at your optimum level is crucial.
Unfortunately, you can’t believe everything you read especially regarding product marketing. So many of the products marketed as sports bars or fuel for athletes are full of sugar and have little to no nutritional benefit. Eating one now and again is fine, but many students especially are on the go so much that they fall victim to ingesting these things all of the time. Granted they are perfect to toss into your mouth between school and practice, but there are healthier choices you can make.
If you crave candy, try to substitute fruit! It is sweet and fruit like berries are very snackable and easy to pop into the mouth to satiate the peckish feeling that sometimes takes over all of us. Sometimes adding some cocoa powder to a smoothie can solve the craving for candy as well.
If you love sports bars, try to substitute a small amount of healthy, preferably home made granola with dried fruit and nuts and seeds mixed in. Keep in mind that nuts and seeds can be high in fat, so do not consume too much especially before a workout. It’s just as easy to keep a sandwich baggie full of granola in your backpack as it is to wolf down a power bar that is the opposite of powerful.
If salty snacks are your downfall, try nuts, seeds or even roasted and seasoned garbanzo beans as a healthy alternative. They’re tasty, crunchy and will help you feel satisfied.
Drinking pure water is the absolute best way to stay hydrated and consuming enough liquids is vital for athletes. Many swear by coconut water, but the science is mixed about any actual benefits to this. Grab a reusable water bottle and try to drink frequently and consistently throughout the day. This will help you minimize your drinking during practice or the game. You should drink some throughout your exertion but consuming large quantities of water while training hard can have negative effects on how you feel. Nobody wants to run all around with water sloshing inside of them. After your workout or practice is done, drink away to your heart’s content.
Planning Ahead and Saving While You Do
Some of these tips involve a little preplanning and things like reusable water bottles, snack containers or even mason jars for super portable salads. Kids can sometimes lose, break or just plain forget to ever bring home these items so having a few on hand as backups is a great idea. Unfortunately, they’re not cheap, so when it is time to replenish or if you are just committing to your journey in properly fueling your child athlete consider availing yourself of discount codes on Frugaa.com.
Retailers like Target, WalMart and other big box stores that carry all of the supplies you need to support the student athlete in your life participate with Frugaa. It makes saving a few dollars effortless, which is great when you are running back and forth to track meets and basketball games with your child.