It’s that time of year again when high school sports are getting back into full swing. Two-a-day practices in hot weather require special attention to hydration and nutrition. Here are five tips to help the young athlete in your life.
1) While it might seem your active teen is eating you “out of house and home,” this makes sense when you consider that active teenage girls can require between 2200-3000 calories a day, and active boys need between 3000-4000 calories each day. Instead of counting the quantity of calories, help your teen pay attention to the quality of calories they are eating. Is their plate a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fat? TeamUsa.org shares an excellent resource for balancing the plate on easy, moderate, and hard training days.
2) I get that EVERYONE is afraid of carbs right now, but active teens need to make sure they are eating plenty of these high-energy foods. Carbs are stored in the muscle and are necessary for fueling activity. They are also important in recovery to prepare for the next day’s practices. Teens should eat a light, carb-rich snack before practice (especially if school lunch is served early in the day), and recover after practice with another snack. Examples include half a sandwich, fruit, or peanut butter on crackers. Follow carbs up with hydration, 1-2 cups of water or a sports drink if the practice is over an hour long.
3) A healthy diet requires plenty of protein, but even if your teen is trying to “bulk up,” protein supplements are not necessary. Eating lean meat, chicken, fish, yogurt, cheese, nut butter, beans, and tofu are all that is needed. No trip to the supplement aisle is required!
4) Be prepared! Active kids need to eat several times a day, so make sure there are always healthy snacks within easy reach. Good examples of non-perishable snacks include trail mix, peanut butter crackers, granola bars, and dried fruit.
5) Hydrate with water or sports drinks instead of juice, soda, or energy drinks. Encourage your teen to carry a water bottle with them wherever they go. It's not necessary to force fluids, but encourage plenty of water throughout the day, and especially after a hot-weather practice. Sugary beverages taste good but they don't do a good job hydrating young athletes and can even lead to an upset stomach.