Back to school means A+ nutrition for student athletes.
Summer fun is all about late-night pizza and ice cream, but a new year means new ways of managing performance nutrition.
How can students organize their daily nutrition to promote peak performance?
Here we discuss 4 nutritional strategies that maximize performance in student athletes — on the field, court, and in the classroom.
#1 Consume Smart Carbs
When you begin working out or start a game, the body first looks to carbohydrates (stored as glycogen) for fuel. To ensure optimal energy, student athletes should consume adequate carbs between 3 hours to 30 minutes prior to exercise.
“Smart carbs” are the best way to guarantee early and sustained energy for practice and competition. They arrive via natural complex energy sources, such as fresh fruit and vegetables.
Avoid simple carbs like excess sugar, and skip processed foods. Instead, maximize carbohydrate intake with whole foods. Loaded with fiber, electrolytes, and antioxidants – smart carbs burn more slowly to provide sustainable energy while freeing up protein for building muscle.
#2 Snack on Protein
Protein is mandatory for a number of reasons. Although only 6% of our energy comes from protein (up to 20% for for ultra endurance athletes from muscle wasting) it is an important element for both satiety and muscle building.
Eat high-protein snacks throughout the day. This ensures afternoon training doesn’t feel sluggish and exhausting. Clean protein sources also reduce hunger, eliminating cravings to sustain a healthy diet and help you feel satisfied throughout the day.
Enjoy lean turkey, cheese, nuts, or a whey protein shake to arrive at practice with the energy you need on board to perform at your best, maintain and build muscle.
#3 Hydrate Like a Champion
If your body is an engine, water is the oil it needs to run smoothly.
Studies show hydration levels directly relate to physical performance. If you’re under-hydrated, your core temperature increases. This saps stamina while diminishing reaction time and mobility.
Adequate water consumption differs between men and women. The Institute of Medicine recommends 11 glasses per day for female athletes, 15 glasses for males.
To assist with hydration, carry a water bottle. If you fill and drink it multiple times throughout the day, you should stay hydrated!
Step onto the scale before and after practice. For every pound of weight lost during exercise, drink 16 oz. of clean water afterwards. This will restore your body to optimal functioning.
#4 Refuel Properly
IMPORTANT: Begin refueling within 30 minutes after a workout or game to ensure optimal recovery.
Replenish energy stores by consuming a 3:1 ratio of carbs to proteins post-workout. This will quickly return glycogen levels to full, and supply ready-to-use energy after exercising, as well as support muscle growth.
Protein is crucial to muscle maintenance and muscle building. It repairs fibers and promotes new protein synthesis. For maximum muscle gains, experts recommend 0.6 – 0.8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight (1.3-1.8 grams per kg).
For example, a 150 lb athlete needs approximately 120 grams of daily protein to see gains. Whey protein supplements are the gold standard in post-workout refueling. They deliver the ideal blend of on-the-go carbs, protein, and superfoods required to maintain muscle, build new muscle, restore energy, and promote wellness. A regular meal should follow your recovery shake within 2 hours to fully restore energy levels and support development.
The best nutritional strategy is grounded in quality food. For athletes on-the-go, a healthy diet can be a challenge – yet is essential to success. To maximize performance, give your body the nutrients it needs, when it needs them.