Nutrition for High School Athletes

Nutrition for High School Athletes

by Jamie Hadland
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Do you get up at 6 a.m. to go to hockey practice, go for a 5 KM run before school starts or swim 20 laps once the school day is complete? If so you are probably serious about athletic training.

But did you also know that practice and training are just one aspect of excelling at your chosen sport?

One of the most important aspects, and one of the most often over looked by young athletes, is nutrition. In order for your body to function at its maximum potential you need to ensure it’s getting all of the necessary nutrients it needs to perform.

Think of your body as a car. Cars need certain fluids to run properly: gas, oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, coolant, and wind shield washer fluid. All of these are essential to the car’s maintenance and operation. Your body works in much the same way.

Hydration is one of the most important things to pay attention to. Water affects physical and mental health and athletic performance. A person’s hydration level depends on the amount of water they take in versus the amount of water they put out. The body gets water from liquids, food, and water it produces itself called metabolic water. Water is lost through urination, sweating and breathing. Ensuring you don’t get dehydrated is key in maintaining performance levels.

Jason Hadland, Bsc.Kin, CFC, PLFC, and Fitness Co-coordinator at the Canada Games Aquatic Centre in Saint John, New Brunswick says, “the rule of thumb for young athletes is to drink 20 oz. two to three hours before the activity and another 10 oz. 20 minutes before. Then drink 20- 24 oz. post exercise.”

“Eating three meals daily and two to three snacks are recommended to keep your body properly energized. Proper eating and snacking before or after athletic events can help reduce injury and speed up recovery time,” according to Hadland. A balanced diet is one that consists of protein, carbs (aka carbohydrates), fats, vitamins and minerals. Avoiding processed foods is also a good idea, as they tend to be less nutritious and full of sugars, bad fats, salt and preservatives.

Carbohydrates provide the body with its main source of energy. The body stores carbs in the form of glycogen and then burns this glycogen during exercise. Once the body has drained its supply you become extremely tired. Foods high in carbs are good for athletes as they help ensure your body doesn’t run out of fuel. Examples of good carbs are those found in fruits and vegetables, brown rice, wild rice, whole rye bread, 100% whole wheat pastas and bread, and whole grain cereals. “Fruits, vegetables and grains should make up three quarters of every meal. You should aim for at least 5 servings a day,” says Hadland.

Protein is also important as it helps your body build muscle and replenishes your body’s supply of iron. Good protein is found in turkey, chicken, fish, nuts, eggs, beans and tofu. Hadland says dairy foods like milk, cheese and yogurt should be consumed 3 to 4 times a day. These foods offer protein, calcium, vitamin D and some carbs.

When training for any sport it is important to remember a well-balanced diet is key. One of the simplest ways to ensure you are getting the appropriate amount of servings of fruits, veggies, dairy, grains and meat is to follow Canada’s Food Guide. Though if you are a competitive athlete you need to remember you need approximately 500 more calories a day then the average person.

A link to Canada’s Food Guide can be found at: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/index-eng.php

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