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Teen athletes need proper nutrition

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

Attention parents and grandparents who have a teenage athlete: This article is for you.

Many teens are currently participating in various sports such as basketball, wrestling, cheerleading, dance, hockey, skiing, and crossfit-type training programs.

Did you know teen athletes have unique nutrition needs? They need extra calories to fuel both their sports performance and their growth. Depending on how active they are, teen athletes might need anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 total calories per day to meet their energy needs.

Where those calories come from makes all the difference in how your athlete performs. An athlete consuming whole grains, water, lean proteins and vegetables is going to perform at a much higher level of endurance and intensity than the athlete surviving on donuts, soda, cheeseburgers and chips.

Help your teen athlete excel this season. Put the following suggestions into practice:

Drink water frequently

Water is just as important as food in pumping up your game power. If allowed, start by having a water bottle at school, and sip on it frequently throughout the day. Drink water before and after exercise and every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise.

Sports drinks may be used if exercising for longer than an hour. Chocolate milk is an excellent post-workout beverage. Never drink energy drinks, especially before exercise.

Energy drinks contain large amounts of caffeine and other ingredients that have caffeine-like effects. This raises the heart rate, which can be extremely dangerous when exercising, as exercise also increases the heart rate.

Eat breakfast every day

Include a complex carbohydrate and a protein source. Examples include whole grain toast with peanut butter, an egg with a whole grain English muffin, or yogurt and fruit.

Eat variety of foods

I am always telling people to “eat a wide variety of foods,” but especially for athletes this certainly serves a purpose. The wide variety is going to help fill all the nutrition gaps and allow athletes to excel to their full potential.

Eat frequently during day

Take advantage of every break to have a meal or snack. Pack a snack to eat immediately before practice, such as a banana or a snack bar. Avoid going longer than 3 hours without eating. Eat within 30 minutes of exercise to help replace glycogen stores and replenish your body’s needs.

Keep food available

Keep the cupboards, pantry and refrigerator stocked with healthy food options for your teen athlete. It is difficult taking in the amount of calories needed, so frequent eating is a must. Work with your teen in developing a healthy grocery list with staples such as milk, yogurt, string cheese, lean meats, tuna, eggs, whole grain breads, pastas, and crackers, fruits, vegetables and nuts/seeds.

Pack healthy food

Pack healthy food for sporting events and competitions. Many athletes are competing in games back-to-back, or all-day events. Send your athlete with a cooler full of energy-boosting food items like sandwiches, fruit, snack bars, whole grain crackers, water and raw veggies. Some concession stands are doing better by selling items like fruit, deli sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs, but packing your own food saves money and ensures your athlete will be fueling properly. Don’t forget to nourish yourself while you are cheering on your teen, and pack yourself a sandwich also!

No-Bake Energy Balls

Mix the following ingredients thoroughly. Refrigerate, then roll into 20 bite-size balls. Serving size is 2 balls. Store in refrigerator.

1 cup oatmeal

½ cup peanut butter

1/3 cup honey

½ cup flaxseed or chia seed

1 teaspoon vanilla

¼ to ½ cup dark chocolate chips or any flavor chocolate chips

– Per serving: 202.8 calories, 11.2 g fat, 63.1 mg sodium, 23.3 g carbohydrate, 3.7 g fiber, 5 g protein.

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