Young athletes playing sport to a high level burn calories rapidly. Not only this but these athletes endure high amounts of stress on their bodies all while undergoing a period of substantial growth and development. This heightens the potential for injury. When athletes are unable to consume the optimum types of food in the correct quantities, performance can be detrimentally impacted and it can also have implications on health and maturity. It can be quite common for young athletes to under-fuel, mainly as they are unaware of their training demands and nutritional needs. Whilst developing this awareness can certainly help with the learning process for players, parents, and coaches (and is an essential part of player development) if athletes are under-fuelling over a prolonged period of time this has the potential to negatively influence their long-term development. If athletes are training / competing in multiple sports or for multiple hours a day higher energy intake is needed to fuel the higher volume / intensity. Daily intake should reflect the exercise undertaken on that particular day. In fact it has been suggested that total energy requirements of adolescent athletes can be 30-40% greater than their parents or their more sedentary peers. Top Tips to Optimise Energy Availability for Young Athletes:
The goal should always be to start every training session or competition with a full bucket of fuel. Adapting eating patterns that offer a regular spread of carbohydrates and protein sources across the day is vital. Therefore, being prepared and having snacks available is really important. Snacks such as muesli bars, fruits, trail mix, nuts, protein filled sandwiches, oat flapjacks, pretzels, chocolate milk, peanut butter on rice cakes or homemade smoothies can be easily packed in your kit bag and carried around throughout the day.
The high intensity, sporadic nature of tennis in particular can result in the severe depletion of internal glycogen stores. These glycogen stores are broken down into glucose and used to fuel the body during training and matches. It is important that carbohydrate intake is a priority following exercise. Glycogen storage is most efficient within the first hour after exercise and so carbohydrate replenishment should begin immediately, especially when there is a short timeframe before the next bout of exercise. Consuming carbohydrate and protein in a 3:1 ratio following training will help to reduce the chance of developing overuse injuries. Milk or chocolate milk is a great recovery drink. Appetite will not always be the best guide. High intensity exercise can often reduce apparent hunger levels. Consuming liquids or easily digestible low fibre snacks around training or matches can help to combat this. Variety is vital to ensure young athletes are provided with all the vitamins and minerals that they require for optimum growth and development.
As part of our online programmes we will be discussing the above in more detail in our upcoming ‘Cultiv8 Classes’. By working with players and parents we will provide some practical suggestions / recommendations for fuelling training and competition effectively. If you would like to register your interest for these sessions then please email us: firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your place!
Nicola Tweedy Cultiv8 Academy Nutritionist