Young athletes trying to make it to the next level often work very hard to get better in their respective sport. It amazes me how dedicated to training some 16 year old kids can be. I was never a great athlete when I was younger, but I was an athlete nonetheless, but at that age I didn’t even know there was something I could do to become a better hockey and basketball player (those were my 2 sports) other than just practicing and playing the game.
Working with kids it amazes me how mature and dedicated some of them are! These same kids look forward to getting in the weight room and get after it. They work hard, they’re focused, and they always have their goal in mind.
However for most of them, I notice one big flaw in their quest to developing their full athletic potential. And this is an issue that comes up with at least 90% of the young athletes I come across.
You might be wondering what it is. It’ not something that has anything to do with training methods, or exercise selection, etc.
It’s their nutrition!
I see so many young athletes on a daily basis trying to get better and reach the next level. They sacrifice hours and hours of their week to train, practice, and play the game. Yet, they skip breakfast, eat sub-par cafeteria food at school, and eat unhealthy snacks before coming to train after school.
We don’t always realize the importance of proper nutrition in the puzzle of our athletic development, but it is crucial. You can’t get bigger, stronger, or better conditioned if you’re not fueling your body the right way. Every summer I have hockey players come up to me because they need to gain weight. Conversation usually goes as follow:
ATHLETE: I need to put on X pounds before the beginning of next season.
ME: Ok. You need to start eating more.
ATHLETE: But Dave, I eat sooo much already!
ME: What did you have for breakfast?
ATHLETE: A bowl of Cocoa Puffs. Is that good?
ME: (Banging my head against the wall)
I might have had a couple concussions in the last couple of years
That’s honestly how most of these conversations go. It’s crazy how most young athletes don’t make the connection between what they fuel their body with, and the outcome on their ability to perform.
Taking a step back, young athletes need to be educated so they understand the link between food and performance. Then they need to be taught what is good, and what is not when it comes to food choices. And last, but not least, they need to have a game plan.
I tell them that they can’t get up in the morning not knowing exactly what they’re gonna eat for the rest of the day. They need to think about what they’re gonna eat the next morning before going to bed at night. They also need to know what they’re gonna pack for lunch and for snacks for that next day. And if there’s nothing ready, they need to prepare something. That might mean cooking something (I learned how to cook at 16, so don’t tell me kids can’t cook), or just prepare something. Make sure there’s something ready to take for lunch the next day!
One of the big problem you’ll face trying to convince young athletes to eat well, and eat enough is that they usually associate eating healthy with food that doesn’t taste good. It couldn’t be any further from the truth. It’s usually just a matter of finding good combinations, and making good use of the spice rack.
There are 2 great resources out there for great tasting, healthy meal choices and recipes. They have been very useful for me over the last couple of years!
Make sure you check these 2 resources out for better, healthier eating that will fuel your or your kids’ performance on the field or on the ice!
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