National Nutrition Month: Youth Athletes

Good morning!

I hope all is going well on your side, wherever you may be :)

Since March is National Nutrition Month I thought we could tackle the tough call of youth nutrition.

Our youth athletes nutrition needs differ from that of us old fogies, so we need to address some common concerns and mistakes as well as some thoughtful ways to help our young athletes thrive.

WATER.

Youth athletes (aged 8-18) dehydrate much faster than adults. In fact, they can dehydrate 40% faster than most adults in the same sport. So, it’s very important that we encourage our athletes to stay hydrated in a variety of ways. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Nix the sodas on game and practice days.
  • Pack a bottle of water for lunch.
  • Remind them to get a drink from the fountain EVERY time they pass it.
  • Pack or take water to them for the game and/or practice.
  • On very hot days or practices lasting longer than 60 minutes, make sure they have a beverage to replace electrolytes. I prefer G2 for my athletes, but regular Gatorade is fine and can be watered down to reduce the sugar.

As you can see, it’s not about the time spent practicing. The majority of youth athletes ENTER practice and games already dehydrated! If you have a young athlete in your home, the responsibility is YOURS to educate them on hydration and cut the sugar and sodas out to ensure proper mental focus and muscle repair during periods of training and playing. Encourage them to drink throughout the day and they will begin to feel and see a difference in practice.

Pre-Game/Practice Fuel

Unfortunately, here the schools will not allow student athletes to eat prior to practice or games. Since lunch times often fall before noon and practice can extend past 6, many athletes are under nourished during game time and practice. If the school doesn’t allow it, what can a parent or guardian do? Lucky for us, we have resources to help :)

Many companies such as Gatorade now offer pre-game solutions. Gatorade has a carbohydrate chew that is safe for youth athletes (12 and up) and provides fast digesting carbs to fill the glycogen stores in the liver and muscles. This is precisely where we get energy. Youth can run out of these stores faster than adults simply due to the growth process. The trick with these is to remind your student to drink LOTS of water with the chew, otherwise it can upset the stomach.

A more whole foods approach can be found in certain bars.

My favorite for my guys is the Come Ready Nutrition Bar.

Come Ready Bars

I’ve spoken about this bar before and truly believe in it. It has a very good nutritional profile with ingredients you recognize. The taste is far beyond other bars on the market AND if you get them from your local Costco (mine is in the Galleria area in Houston), you pay less than $1 a bar….that makes it easy to share with the whole team. Go YOU!

If Costco isn’t working for you or nowhere near you, I recommend a virtual trip to Bodybuilding.com

Now, if your athlete has an issue with gluten** you’ll be glad to know that Come Ready Nutrition now has gluten-free kids bars that can help to fuel your athlete without the fuss. Check out more on those bars HERE.

Timing is key, so I have my kids take a bar to school. Before practice they can usually eat 1/2 the bar while dressing and then they eat the other 1/2 after. During games, I take a bar and meet them at the bus. Just last week my daughter had a tennis match and the coach told her she couldn’t eat her bar on the bus, so my daughter ate it with lunch (they love the bars). SIDE NOTE: most coaches have English or Math degrees and know NOTHING about nutrition. You CAN take food to your child pre game or practice….that is YOUR right as a parent or guardian. Moving on…..that match my daughter had a very hard time focusing and her energy was all over the place. THIS week, my husband took a bar to the match and she ate it when she got off the bus….her doubles won and she had focus and energy to spare.

Hydration and nutrition play the largest role in energy output, yet we do nothing to equip our athletes for success. Give them a fighting chance to be the best they can be!

Remember, nutrition matters :)

 

**Another side note here, because as a professional I feel it must be said: IF you think your child has an issue with gluten, PLEASE have them take a simple blood test with their doctor. By preemptively pulling gluten from their diet because you read something on Google, you can actually end up doing more harm in the long run. I know gluten-free is a big deal right now…..but fat-free was big in the 80′s so please proceed with caution. Same goes for yourself. If you think you have an issue, ask for a test from your doc to confirm.

 

 

Youth Athletes: Sports Nutrition and Training

Happy Monday!

I’m getting back into the swing of things since the Summer is winding down (sad, but so true). Today, I’m going to start off August with info on Youth Athletes. Your kid (if you have contact with ANY young athletes, this will help you!) can benefit greatly from proper knowledge on training and nutrition as the sports seasons start to come into full swing. Some youth prefer seasonal sports such as football and basketball, while others can play soccer or baseball seemingly year round. If you know youth (I’ll be working mainly with ages 8-17 here) then the knowledge you will gain during this month will prove priceless in keeping them on top of their game and injury free. Let’s get started!

Parents and Caregivers:It’s NOT about you…

Harsh start, I know. Here’s the real deal though: your kids chosen sport has nothing to do with you. If they chose baseball because it was your idea and your hopes are hung on them going farther than you did and reliving your glory days….it will end badly. Usually resulting in pushing too far which can ultimately lead to life long injury. Our jobs as parents and caregivers are to encourage them and help them along their own path…not relive our own.

Nutrition is PARAMOUNT during the training season.

Developing solid nutritional habits is the most important step you can take during training. They can run faster than anybody on the planet, but poor nutrition will outrun even the fastest kid. This can be difficult to understand as most people equate nutrition with weight. Nutrition is way bigger than weight, it’s about preventing injury and creating an environment in which the body can fully thrive. For example: a water loss of 10% (this is before the thirsty feeling kicks in) can cause delayed reaction times and dizziness. This means that if your athlete starts the game slightly dehydrated they have a higher chance of injury due to overcompensation. Too few carbs in the diet can lead to the body pulling from muscle during a training session or game. When the body begins to eat its own muscle, we experience painful cramps that can slow us completely. The body hits survival mode and your kids could be the one hitting the grass in severe pain. Poor refueling after training or games will result in muscle loss and encourage more catabolic behaviour within the body. The result? Your athlete will slowly begin to think that they aren’t “meant” for the sport…refuel properly and they have the best chance for keeping the muscle their body is trying to establish and raising the bar on the game itself. All because you rock as a parent :)

Consider hiring a professional.

PROFESSIONAL is the key term here. Interview the person that may be working with your athlete. Don’t assume they are qualified just because they work at a gym or for a sports facility. I know a lot of completely unqualified people who work in those arenas. It’s a simple question: are you certified to work with youth athletes? Follow up to a yes: May I see that certification? Aside from that, feel free to ask for records of CPR certification, insurance and any other specialties. I believe in making it a point to ensure you are hiring somebody who knows what they are doing, especially when it comes to your kids.

Educate your athlete.

The number one thing I have learned in working with young athletes is that mom and dad can’t just fall back on the Nike slogan JUST DO IT. Kids are ripe for planting knowledge. Explain to them WHY they need to drink their water. Explain the benefits of potassium and sodium in the diet. Explain why that double meat fast “food” burger isn’t nearly good enough to refuel after training. Size your response to questions based on your athletes age. My kids started learning about nutrition very young and now, they get it. They understand why they need to pay attention to their bodies and they dig the fact that we don’t do fast “food”. Why? Because it’s NOT food! It’s processed junk and the body would rather not use it to fuel muscle, so it gets stored. We have burgers…but they’re the really good ones :)

Every week I’ll bring you a recipe for pre-training/pre-game. This week:

Protein and Carb Pancakes

Both of my young athletes (and myself!) LOVE these things. They are the proper ratio of proteins to carbs (60/30) with just a tiny bit of fat (10) since you don’t want to train or play on a fatty stomach. Serve these 30-60 minutes prior to training/gaming and your athlete will be ahead of the pack already.

Ingredients:

2 whole eggs + 4 egg whites

1/2 cup quick cooking oats

2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour (you can use gluten-free if needed)

cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, etc for spice

OPTIONAL: 1 scoop whey protein, flavor of choice (I only recommend if your athlete is over 10 years old and pretty active)

milk of choice until consistency meets how your kids digs their pancakes (my kids like them pretty thick)

Mix together and cook in pan or on griddle until slightly golden brown.

Top with fruit (bananas rock!), natural honey or natural maple syrup.

The natural sugars will help with energy, but don’t overdo as too much sugar can upset the GI tract during vigorous activity.

 

 

Come back all month for more on keeping your athlete on the top of their game!

Michelle

This One’s for the Parents

At the risk of being a fire starter (who am I kidding? I love to start fires), I feel the need to address a growing problem that is making itself painfully evident.

If you are the parent of a youth involved in any sport, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure your athlete is properly fueled for practices and games!!!!!!!!!!!

I wish I could just assume that line is sufficient, but I have witnessed nutrition deficiencies that tell me we still don’t get it…..

Younger athletes are different from weekend warriors and gym rats. Children, age 5-16, who participate in sports need to be properly fueled. This means that they need plenty of water, not a Route 44 of choice from Sonic people! Corn chips, french fries and handy wrapped sweets are not considered fuel either. End of story. Youth are more prone to dehydration and improper fuel utilization especially if they are not sent out on the field, or court, with the advantage of proper nutrition. It’s really not that hard, but it’s something most parents simply don’t think about.

I was helping to coach my daughter’s soccer team last night. Practice is from 5-6 p.m. and her team is girls from 5th-6th grade. Most of the girls showed up sleepy and lacking energy, a sure sign of dehydration. Several made comments that they were hungry. Do you know what happens when you work out in a state of dehydration and hunger? Catabolism. It’s about as much fun as it sounds. The body, in its search for energy, will slowly start to shut down essential organs, such as the liver and digestive system (hello stomach pain while running!), and pull from the nearest source: muscles. Sending your child to practice without proper hydration and fuel means that their body will turn and begin to break down its own muscle tissue, essentially eating itself. How’s that for love? Not too good.

I get that we are ALL busy. I’m working from the time I wake until I hit the pillow and I’m usually driving between classes and clients, but I assure you my athletes are always well prepared. How can you fuel your athlete and ensure that they are safe and well hydrated for practice and games? Here are a few of my tricks:

  • Send water for lunch or make sure they drink water at home. Schools offer fountains, but it’s rare that kids (especially junior high and high school) have the time to get in enough water. Pack a bottle of water and encourage your youth to drink it at lunch. “But they don’t like water”. This is a fight you need to pick. Don’t be a wimpy parent and then have to explain to your child that the reason why they passed out on the field and now have to be hospitalized is because you didn’t want to utilize your parental rights. Drink water.
  • Make sure they have water AND an electrolyte beverage for long practices and games. Both my kids always have a bottle of water for during games and one for after. You can also send a G2 or Powerade (low sugar) mixed with water. These are particularly important if it’s extremely hot or they have to wear a lot of equipment (i.e. football pads).
  • Make sure they have some pre-game/practice fuel. You don’t want them practicing on a full stomach, so these are things that are easy to stuff and store. A handful of almonds and an apple, a banana and a piece of toast, some granola and apple juice or even a low sugar protein smoothie (if you have time to make it). If you pick your athlete up and head to practice directly following work, consider planning ahead and packing the snack(s) in a cooler for later. It should take less than 2 minutes and the payoff is phenomenal.
  • Provide healthy snacks for the team. When we’re in charge of snacks we always bring water, bananas and oranges (since post-game is the best time to get natural sugars in to replenish the muscle glycogen that will store from the meal that follows), pretzels or trail mix and maybe a little dark chocolate as a treat. Mounds of processed foods will do nothing but make athletes cranky and sleepy. Skip the Cheezits and head for the produce.
  • Make sure they have a good meal following the practice/game. It doesn’t have to be a 4 course meal. Just make sure they get proteins and carbs to rebuild the muscle. Spaghetti and meat sauce, chicken with rice and veggies, potatoes with chicken and salad, etc. are all great options and easy to make before hand.
  • Keep the items you need on hand. I buy protein bars for my son since he does a lot of after school athletics. I simply send them in his lunch OR he can throw them in his binder.
  • In special situations I do use electrolyte and/or carbohydrate blocks. You can find these at the local sporting goods store or health food store. These blocks contain electrolytes and often fast digesting carbs. They are small and easy to digest, BUT you have to drink plenty of water. Since the schools love to believe it’s totally fine to deprive children of water and fuel, I make sure my son has these tucked away for pre-game/practice. They are small enough to have in his pocket and something he can chew up while dressing out.

The bottom line here is don’t depend on somebody else to fuel your kid. If we would just commit to up the water and lower the sugar, we may wake up to different kids as both dehydration and excessive sugar can contribute to changes in personality and temperance. Fuel your athlete for success and you won’t regret the small amount of extra time you have to spend. Take the accountability and make sure you explain this to your children. This way they can have a say in the healthy snacks which can lead to better adherence. It’s never too early to start living healthy!

 

Michelle