Written by Michael Curtis,Certified Personal Trainer and Sports Nutritionist
In order to perform like a champion, your body needs the proper fuel. Without taking in the proper nutrients, your body will actually burn muscle in order to complete the rigorous activities associated with practice and games. When you begin any type of strenuous physical activity, your body will first burn the sugar, carbs, and protein in your system, and depending on the level of your activity and your heart rate, your body will either burn fat (for low level activities) or will start burning muscle during more strenuous activities. Therefore, if you aren’t taking in enough of the right nutrients at the right times, a long, active practice can actually leave your body weaker than it was before you started. This lack of nutrients can also lead to muscle fatigue and possible injury. A study of football injuries last year in a large metropolitan area showed that approximately 75% of the injuries treated could be attributed back to malnutrition and muscle fatigue.
Here is where the problem starts… most high school students eat a poor breakfast or no breakfast at all. They go to school and are in class all morning, and then eat a school lunch. The majority of school lunch programs in the United States only provide the bare minimal required nutrients for an averaged sized regular student. This isn’t nearly enough for a student athlete. After lunch, the student will go back to class, and then after school will go directly to a rigorous practice. The problem with this type of diet is that it doesn’t provide nearly enough nutrients to maintain a high level of activity.
A good breakfast for a high school athlete is extremely important. A good breakfast consists of good carbs and healthy protein. An example is 5 egg whites and 1 whole egg scrambled together. Then add half a cup of oatmeal with Splenda brown sugar, 6 blueberries, and some crushed walnuts. This breakfast has approx 40g of good carbs, and 26g of protein. Another good option is 1 scoop of chocolate whey protein isolate, 1/3 cup of raw uncooked oatmeal, 1 heaping tablespoon of peanut butter, 8 oz of water, and crushed ice. Blend in a blender until smooth. This shake is a quick alternative to the eggs and oatmeal and still provides the essential nutrients that a high school athlete needs.
The high school athletes that I work with will also take a protein shake or protein bar and eat between breakfast and lunch. Another protein shake with their school lunch, and another protein shake or protein bar approximately 20-30 min before practice. Note, an athlete that is trying to maintain size will need to take in approximately 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. If an athlete is trying to gain muscle and size, they will need to take in at least 1.25-1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight. It is also important to know that the body can only efficiently absorb 40 grams of protein an hour. Therefore, it is necessary to eat several smaller meals a day to get the amount of protein needed. For example, if an athlete weighs 200lbs and wants to gain muscle, they will need to take in 225-250lbs of protein a day. If eaten in 40 gram increments, that would be 6 meals a day. Healthy carbs are also important for an athlete. The rule of thumb for carbs in young athletes is at least 1.5-2 grams of carbs per pound of body weight. Note that the type of carbs is extremely important. Good carbs are from oatmeal, brown rice, whole grain breads and pastas, or vegetables.
After practice it is important that you replenish your body with the nutrients that were depleted during the rigorous activity. A great option is 8oz of orange juice, 1 heaping scoop of vanilla whey protein isolate, and crushed ice. Mix in a blender. This shake will taste like an Orange Dream-cicle or Orange Julius. This is very popular with my high school athletes. This shake provides natural sugar that will spike your insulin and has natural carbs and a healthy dose of protein. The insulin spike will allow your body to absorb the protein at a much quicker rate and keep lactic acid from building in your muscles causing cramping or soreness. This shake must be taken within 30 minutes after the end of practice while your metabolism is still spiked from the workout.
Eating right and knowing how to provide your body with the right nutrients can help you increase your performance level and avoid injuries. Having this type of knowledge can also help you maximize the results achieved during workouts or practice.
It’s a long season. If you want to be as strong and productive at the end as you were at the beginning, it’s important to fuel your body correctly.
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