Food timing has been a hot topic for as long as I can remember. Most people think of “game day” when they consider food timing, which is important, but timing your food on a daily basis can actually help your body prepare for your game day. I actually found very little research available for basic food needs for teens/teen athletes. So here’s an average from a couple different sources as to what kids should be getting in on a daily basis.
So here’s my opinion; eating clean on a regular basis is the most important way to train your body to use the nutrients you give it. Your body will learn to anticipate when you are going to feed it and your hunger mechanism will begin to function properly.
Unfortunately, we now have food available all the time and everywhere. Food is packaged to last outside of a fridge, in our gym bags and backpacks. This has been a lifesaver for many a busy person, but we have come to rely on these products as food replacements so we don’t have to cook or because we are convinced we don’t have time to prepare food. These products are loaded with preservatives (i.e.: sugar, sodium, and other unpronounceable ingredients) and many of the ingredients have been processed down so much we don’t actually get any nutritional value, causing us to reach for more food. We have, as a society, stopped listening to our internal “hunger clock.” The problem with this is our body only begins digesting when we stop chewing food. Our digestive system does not multitask, when the stomach is working the intestines are not, and it takes anywhere from 2-4 hours to digest a meal completely (everyone is different). So, if you start eating before the previous meal is done digesting, your body stops focusing on the intestines and moves back to the stomach, leaving the undigested food rotting on its own in your gut😖 that’s a pleasant picture isn’t it?!
With this in mind, make sure that your regular snacks/meals are no closer together than about 2 hours. If you feel hungry before that time try drinking water. When your body is dehydrated, it will do whatever it takes to get you to consume something with fluids to rehydrate.
Bottom line, get good food in every day! Train your body to crave good nutrient rich foods that will help with performance on and off the field.
As for game day, this includes days when you will be practicing or training for 2+ hours, you can load your body with energy that will give you your best performance and keep you from getting hangry after the game or practice.
4-5 hours before the event: heavy meal
- Get in whole grains, vegetables, a small amount of protein and good fats
- Ex: whole grain pasta with roasted squash and sweet potato and 4 ounces of grilled chicken
2-4 hours before event: light meal
- Small amount of whole grain carbs and raw veggies, protein and fruit
- Ex: PBJ or turkey sandwich or a leafy green salad with kidney beans and tons of veggies with olive oil and salt and pepper
1/2 – 1 hour before event: light snack
- Green and cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower) and ranch dip ( DO NOT use low fat, there’s a ton of chemicals and sugar😡)
Post Event (within two hours): Recovery
- Plant based proteins, these are easier to digest and help the muscles recover faster. Fruit to replace natural sugar stores and if the event lasted 2+ hours a sports drink or coconut water to replenish electrolytes.
It should go without saying that you should be getting water in with all of these meals. A good rule of thumb is to get half your body weight in ounces everyday, just for basic life functions. Once you start adding in additional exercise you want to increase you water intake. I usually do about 12 ounces per hour of intense exercise. Just remember to listen to your body and drink water when you are thirsty. And to keep from feeling like you are drowning and peeing every five minutes😰 drink a couple sips of water every 10 minutes or so.
Remember to always check with your primary care doctor before making and major changes to your eating lifestyle!
Till next time!!
For teen athletes processed food has become the norm for go-to snacks and meals. The schedules are crazy and parents are doing their best to “just get something in them.”
Food choice is very important for teens in general. The amount of growth and development that happens in the ‘tween and teen years is astounding, and without the proper nutrients that growth can be very trying on all people involved😉
Without proper nutrition good quality sleep is difficult to achieve, mood swings are more common, for girls the menstrual cycle can been more painful, focus and motivation can be lacking. Many symptoms of ADD and ADHD can be helped with a consistent and whole foods based diet.
This is probably one of the best food pyramid/food plate info graphics I’ve seen to date!
Vegetables are the biggest group and very well should be. There is so much nutrition packed in. You get water, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Some even provide calcium and protein. You should strive to get 2-3 varieties in at EACH meal. YES I SAID IT! Every meal should have vegetables involved and at least one should be in its raw form for you to get the most benefit.
Fruits are next. I use fruits in my home as desserts. They are delicious, provide nutrients and (without extra sugar added) can tame your sweet tooth! With that said they do contain sugar and even though it is good sugar, you can still get too much. I would also like to clarify that I am talking about whole fruits here, no juice or fruit-flavored things. I would even keep dried fruit to a minimum. Once the fruit has been processed, even with dehydration, it is now missing a component that makes it digest properly in your system giving you a sugar concentrate without any of the nutrients to help your body deal with and digest it. I would stick with 2 servings on non-workout days and no more than 4 servings on workout days.
Whole Grains are next on the list. Despite the no-carb fad. Whole grains can be good for you, especially as an athlete. The key here is moderation and timing. The carbohydrates can provide a quick energy source for your body, but again, too much just causes issues for your body. if you don’t burn the carbs they get sfored as adipose tissue (the jiggly fat no one likes)😝
Fats are another good group that has had an unfortunate history. There are good fats and bad fats, but the good ones are imperative to brain development, organ function and fuel for the body.
Legumes and lean meats are the best protein source. Plant based proteins are easier for the body to digest and therefore great for immediately after a long workout or event. Lean meats such as chicken and fish are also great for muscle recovery and help with increasing muscle mass.
I will elaborate more next time!! ‘Til then happy healthy eating!!!