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5 Things Teen Athletes Need To Know; optimal nutrition for your teen athlete
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Pre-teens and teens have a high demand for energy and nutrient needs for normal growth and maturation. Meeting the increased needs for boys and girls in sports takes knowledge and planning. Active teenage boys need 3,000-4,000 calories a day and active girls need 2,200-3,000 calories per day. Optimal nutrition for your teen athlete includes adequate carbohydrates, protein, and heart-healthy fats, calcium, and plenty of fluids.

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Carbohydrates are crucial.

Muscles are the storage vessel for carbohydrates that provide the fuel for athletes. Full carbohydrate stores before activities are important. Carbs provide the energy for power moves such as sprints and slam dunks and are necessary for recovery to prepare for the next days events. Choose good quality carbs such as whole-grain bread, crackers, cereal, pasta, potatoes, and fruit for lasting energy. Save simple carbohydrates like sports drinks and pureed fruit pouches for energy boosts during endurance sports or training that lasts more than an hour.

Protein is pivotal.

Protein is essential to build and repair muscles and to support growth and should be spread out through the day. Good sources of protein include lean meats, fish, eggs, low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt, and plant-based sources such as tofu, beans, nuts, and seeds. Expensive protein supplements will not provide optimal nutrition for your teen athlete. Muscles can get all the protein they need from foods! Supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA and many have been found to contain harmful substances such as anabolic steroids. According to a new study published by Harvard Health Publishing, 130 types of toxins were recently identified in many protein powders including heavy metals like lead and mercury as well as pesticides and other carcinogens.

Fats are fundamental.

Fats fill in calorie gaps. Vitamins K, A, D, and E require fat for absorption. Essential fatty-acids are important for a healthy heart. Fats also provide a protective cushion for vital organs. Opt for healthy fats found in fish, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. Avoid fatty foods before a practice or game as fatty foods will leave your athlete feeling tired and sluggish. Click here for a fast food shocker!

Fluids are foundational.

Dehydration will decrease performance and put athletes at risk for heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Hydration should be continuous throughout the day. Water should be the go-to drink for fluid intake. Sports drinks may be needed to replace electrolytes for activity that exceeds 60 minutes or for excessive sweating. In addition to water, low-fat milk provides hydration and calcium needed for building strong bones, transmitting nerve impulses, and helping muscles contract. Milk also packs 8 grams of protein per serving and is a good source of potassium.

Timing can be tricky.

The most current recommendation is to eat a meal a minimum of three hours before an event. Liquid meals, such as milkshakes or yogurt smoothies can be consumed 1-2 hours before the event. To keep energy levels high between activities or events on the same day, drink low-fat milk mixed with Carnation Instant Breakfast, sports drinks, bananas, or rice cakes with honey. Avoid fat, fiber, and high-protein snacks during competition which will slow digestion.

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