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Teenage Athletes: Are You Eating Enough To Fuel Your Performance?


What can you do to improve your performance?


  • Eat a varied balanced diet that meets your growth and energy needs

  • Drink enough fluids to stay hydrated and replace any lost fluids

  • Plan your training and recovery properly

  • Improve your technique and skills through training


As a teenage athlete, your body has particular nutritional needs.


Where to start?


Start by making a few simple changes, that you find easy to do. Ideally choose something simple that will give you a big win. Maybe its:

  • Improving your breakfast, big win if you have been skipping it

  • Improve your snacks before a match or training eg. bagel with peanut butter and banana

  • Plan what you will eat immediately after a session. This will speed up your recovery, which is really important if you play a number of sports e.g. bag of almond nuts


Once you’ve got this right, move onto something else and before you know it you will have a healthy and varied diet.


The Fuel Your Body leaflet is packed with information about what to eat and drink to perform best in your sport, stay healthy and feel great.


Carbohydrates


The main role of carbohydrates is to provide energy for your brain and muscles during exercise. If your diet does not contain enough carbohydrate, it is likely that your performance and recovery will be impaired.


The body stores carbohydrates in muscles and liver as glycogen. Glycogen is the main source of energy for the body during exexercise. These Glycogen stores are limited.


To improve performance, make sure to start out with a full glycogen tank and top it up throughout the session.


If you run out of glycogen, you may feel tired, lack energy, poor decision making, loss of focus and not be able to perform at your best.


So, regular intake of carbohydrate-rich foods can be important in this case to keep stores topped up.


Starchy foods are an important source of carbohydrates in our diet. Wholegrain varieties also provide fibre, and a range of vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, iron, calcium and folate. Sugars are also carbohydrates and the amount of ‘free sugars’ (those added to foods and drinks or in fruit juices, honeys and syrups) should be limited.

What snacks should I eat before and after exercise?


Before exercise:

To ensure your energy levels are at their best when you exercise, eat a meal or snack that is high in carbohydrates two to three hours before you exercise. Some ideas for pre-exercise snacks include the following

  • Toast (add banana, nut butter, beans)

  • Chicken with rice and salad

  • Baked potato with beans, tuna or chicken and salsa

  • Yoghurt drink with a scone

  • Creamed rice with dried fruit

  • Yoghurt and fruit

  • Bagel with cream cheese or peanut butter

Only you, the athlete will know how soon you can eat before exercise!


After exercise (Ideally within 30 - 60 mins of exercise):

To restore your energy levels (glycogen stores) after exercise and and to maintain muscle mass, eat a snack that is high in carbohydrates and protein. Here are some examples:

  • Ham, tuna or turkey sandwich with a drink or water

  • Milk with a banana

  • Yoghurt drink

  • Bagel and cream cheese, pancake with jam

  • Yoghurt and a banana

  • Fruit and Milk

  • Hummus & Carrot sticks


Hydration


If you are not sure if you are drinking enough fluids, check out the colour of your urine. It should be a pale-yellow colour. If it is darker than this, you need to drink more.


Dehyration will quickly effect performance, reaction times, recovery and injury risk.


What does inadequate Nutrition look like?


When you do not fuel your body correctly, a variety of things can occur.


  • Low Mood

  • Difficult with motivation for training

  • Hungry

  • Loss of Appetite

  • New or ongoing gut upset

  • Persistent fatigue

  • Unintentional weight loss

  • Altered menstrual cycle

  • More frequent injuries

  • Delayed injury recovery

  • Poor performance


What can you eat to build muscle?


Protein


Protein is important in sports performance as it can boost glycogen storage, reduce muscle soreness and promote muscle growth, building and repair. Foods include red meat, soya and tofu, chicken, turkey, nuts, fish, pulses, eggs, yoghurt, milk and cheese.


Carbohydrates also play an important part in gaining muscle. If you are not eating enough to meet your energy (calorie) needs, then you will struggle to build muscle bulk.


Excessive Protein intakes above your needs will not result in further muscle growth and can cause long-term health problems.


Sports Supplements


Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes - supplements are not recommended for teenagers. Sports supplements have not been tested on teenagers or children, so there is zero evidence to show they are safe for your growing body and are not recommended for anyone under 18 years of age.



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