As young athletes, we need fuel to perform. A lot of fuel! To be at our best, active girls need around 2,400 calories from meals and snacks throughout the day. The trick is figuring out what to eat and when to eat it in order to be ready to go at game time. To help figure it out, here are some dos and don’ts of sports nutrition.
DO drink water. Athletes need 0.5 to 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight daily. Stay hydrated at all times, not just during competition.
DON’T skip breakfast. When you wake up your body is on empty already. You need to fuel up if you expect it to work well throughout the day and to energize you for your workouts. If you don’t like to eat first thing, a protein shake is a great alternative to a full breakfast.
DO keep your iron and calcium levels up. Being low in iron can slow you down and increase your risk of injury. Calcium helps build strong bones and protects against stress fractures. Insert leafy greens, milk, yogurt and iron-fortified cereals into your diet to introduce these important elements.
DON’T diet. Active bodies need calories. Restricting your food intake won’t help you build muscle, keep lean, or get in better shape. In fact, some studies say that a large number of teen athletes could be considered malnourished, and girls face what’s called female athlete triad syndrome. This can lead to irregular periods, low energy and low bone density caused by extreme exercise without adequate fuel.
DO refuel after competing. Right after the game or race, athletes should consume a mix of protein and carbs to help with muscle recovery and to reduce muscle soreness. Chocolate milk or a protein shake is a quick and easy recovery drink.
DON’T eat too close to game time. Athletes should eat three or four hours before training or competing, with a small snack 1-2 hours prior if needed.
DO include many food groups into your diet. Whole grains, veggies, fruits, lean meats and fish are key. Eat colourfully!
DON’T eat too many sugary, fatty foods. The empty calories in sweet foods are poor sources of fuel and cause you to crash, and fatty foods slow digestion. There are lots of sites online that are great guides for proper nutrition and healthy habits, like this one. To take the guesswork out of it, meal planning can help you ensure you’re getting everything you need.
So now all you warriors can fuel up, be fierce and compete!