Nutritional Guidelines for High School Athletes

Nutritional Guidelines for High School Athletes

As Thanksgiving Break approaches for High Schools across the nation, student-athletes are rejoicing at the fact that they can load up their dinner plates and stuff their bellies alongside family. Being that this is a once-a-year holiday feast, there's no problems with grabbing as many servings of turkey, stuffing, and pie that their stomach can hold. However, it's important that these athletes keep these eating habits reserved for special occasions only!

An athlete's diet and nutrition off-the-field are just as important as their practice and hard-work on-the-field. The saying, "You are what you eat," definitely holds true. It's important that these young athletes maintain a healthy, balanced diet during both the season and off-season, so that physically, they can remain at a peak-performance level.

In order to maximize energy, performance, muscle development, and overall health, a standard diet of 3 meals a day (starting with a healthy breakfast) and 2-3 healthy snacks a day must be set. Student-athletes must be consistent with this meal schedule. It's crucial that NO meal is skipped either! Skipping meals can ultimately lead to muscle loss, as well as loss of energy.

Let's take a look at 6 different aspects that are essential to a properly balanced diet:

Carbohydrates: These are the human body's preferred source of energy. Good carbohydrates can be found in organic fruits and vegetables, beans, brown rice, 100% whole grain breads, and unprocessed oatmeals. Watch out for highly processed carbohydrates, which can be found in sodas, candy, baked goods, pasta, fast food, and potato chips. Avoid these types of carbohydrates at all costs!

Protein: Protein is essential for digestion, metabolism, and even tissue growth/repair. Athletes should be including protein in each of the 3 meals throughout the day. Good sources of protein are lean meats (chicken, beef, fish, pork, etc.), eggs, organic dairy products (cheese, yogurt), raw nuts, and natural nut butters (peanut and almond butter).

Fats: While the word can be scary, the body actually needs certain types of fats. The healthy fats that athletes need to be consuming can be found in avocados, fish, olive and coconut oils, nut butters, and seeds. Avoid chemically processed fats such as trans fats and hydrogenated fats that around found in fried foods.

Minerals: Minerals are not produced in the body, so it's important that athletes get minerals incorporated into their diet through the food they eat. The 4 major minerals critical to proper bodily functions are calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium. These can be obtained through foods such as leafy green vegetables, whole grains, potatoes, bananas, dairy products, peppers, and oranges.

Vitamins: Just like minerals, we can only obtain vitamins through the food we eat and supplements we intake. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body, while water-soluble vitamins are unable to be stored in the body and must be replenished frequently. You can find good sources of vitamins in foods like dairy products, meats, vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and plant oils.

Water: Last, but most certainly not least, water is an essential part of every athlete's diet. It's extremely important that athletes consume water not only throughout the day, but before, during, and after intense periods of physical training, such as practices and games. Lack of proper amounts of water intake can lead to dehydration, which diminishes strength, energy, coordination, and leads to higher risk of injury. It's recommended by experts that young athletes should consume about 1 cup of water per 30 minutes of intense physical activity.

 

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