Teens and sports go hand in hand with many students
*Disclaimer: Information found in this article was based on research and personal experience. I am not a medical professional or licensed athletic trainer. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet or exercise regimen.
In the April 2013 edition of Family Circle Magazine there was an interesting article on teen health and fitness. Being a mother of 16 and 11 year old girls; who are very actively involved in sports, I found the article very informative.
This sparked me to dig in a little further when it comes to the food they should be eating. Do teens get enough nutrition to sustain their active lifestyles?
As a child I didn’t play organized sports. Being a single mother raising two girls virtually alone, my mom just couldn’t afford the extra cost associated with doing so.
I did manage to participate in gymnastics for a short stint as part of an after school program when I was around 12 or 13, but most of my activity came from playing outside with the neighborhood kids.
Today, both of my girls love cheerleading. Cheerleading is a sport no matter what preconceived notions there may be around it. And it certainly isn’t the same sport as when I was in high school in the mid-1980’s.
Our cheerleaders still wore saddle shoes and only one or two members knew how to do any sort of tumbling.
Today’s cheerleaders incorporate tumbling, stunts and dance into their routines as well. Here’s a peek at a National Competition to see what’s involved.
A typical day for my daughter starts at 5:45am and ends around 9pm during the week from August-February. She cheers football and basketball season; as well as cheerleading competitions on the weekends.
This schedule leaves little time for her to focus on what her body needs to fuel itself; not to mention balancing school work and any extra time with family and friends.
Parents have to step in to make sure our teens are getting the right balance of nutrition and rest. For this age, researchers recommend a minimum of 8 hours of sleep per night; which helps maintain coordination.
According to KidsHealth.org, eating while doing sports, is more than just consuming large amounts of carbs or drinking sports drinks.
It’s all about consuming the right foods in the right amounts and incorporating them into your daily diet. They also stated “If an athlete doesn’t eat enough, their bodies are less likely to achieve peak performance and may even break down rather than build up muscles.”
Playing sports boosts your need for extra calories. A typical teenage boy requires a base level of about 2,100–2,400 calories daily, while a typical girl needs around 1700 calories.
Adding sports into the mix, girls need an extra 750 calories per day, while boys need an extra 900 calories per day to meet the energy demands of training and competing.
It’s not always easy, but not eating enough calories while you’re training is asking for trouble. Too few calories will cause your performance to suffer, you’ll get sick more frequently.
For girls, it can negatively impact their hormone balance, leading to devastating long-term consequences on bone health.
The following foods are the foundation of healthy eating; and healthy eating is what all athletes need to do in order to perform at their best.
Foundation of Healthy Eating
Fruits, Vegetables and Grains
- Should make up 3/4 of your meal
- Provides carbohydrates
- Contain essential vitamins, minerals and fiber
- Consume at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day such as apples, bananas, oranges, carrots, celery, broccoli
- Choose whole grain or multi grain breads when available, oatmeal and brown rice
- Should make up 1/4 of your meal
- Lean meats, chicken, turkey, fish, nuts, beans and tofu
- Provides amino acids; which helps build muscle tissue, iron which maintains energy levels
- Time your protein intake throughout the day with foods such as peanut butter and jam, chicken, tuna, nuts or dried fruit
- 3-4 servings per day
- Choose lower fat versions of milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese
- Provides protein, some carbs and great source of calcium and vitamin D
- Consume healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) like salmon, nuts, avocado and extra virgin olive oil
- To stay hydrated throughout the day, young athletes should drink ½ to 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight.
Sample Teen Diet
When possible, consume a meal 2-4 hours before training or competing and select high carb foods and beverages; as well as a small amount of lean protein.
Also avoid foods that are slow to digest or fatty foods, and unhealthy foods such as unprocessed foods, caffeine drinks, and foods fried in oil. Here is what a sample diet might look like for a teenage girl:
Breakfast: Apricot & Pistachio Oatmeal (246), 2 cups strawberries (92), a cup of orange juice (122)
Snack: 1 Banana (172) and a cup of 2% milk (120)
Lunch: Mediterranean Garbanzo & Green Bean Salad (165), Pita Bread (165), cup of 2% milk (120)
Snack: Energy Bars (114), Greek yogurt (140)
Dessert: Apple Walnut Granola Bars (108), cup of 2% milk (120)