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The other day, I was in the cafeteria during lunch and one of our starting varsity volleyball players was standing at the microwave with her friend. I asked what she was having for lunch on game day. She told me that was her friend’s food in the microwave, not her’s.

I again asked what she was having. She held up a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. I told her she needed more than that on game day and she replied, “Ya, maybe next week I’ll bring a salad or something healthy like that.”

That conversation started me out on a mission to help. I have a seventh grade daughter and just like this high school girl, she has very little understanding of what proper nutrition means for young athletes.

Poor Eating = Decreased Performance

Athletes will eagerly train their bodies for hours every day, but most simply don’t understand that poor eating habits will eventually lead to decreased performance. No matter how hard they train in other areas.

Young athletes body’s need high levels of calories to support growth and development simply based on their age. Being an athlete increases those needs even more.

Proper nutrition and hydration is essential for gains in strength, speed, and peak performance. It ensures adequate fuel for activity, improves muscle recovery, and boosts mental performance.

Here are the highlights of what I have learned so far:

  • Breakfast is the most important meal for young athletes. Most people use up their energy stores at night. Refilling these stores with breakfast will help ensure your body doesn’t borrow too much energy from your muscles throughout the day.
  • The majority of young athletes are simply under-fueled. Most go into practice on less than 1000 calories and in the early stages of dehydration. Symptoms of inadequate nutrition include the inability to gain or build strength, training hard but not improving performance, and always being hurt or injured. Underfueling also increases your susceptibility to colds and injury, and slows the recovery process.
  • Proper nutrition is not just about eating three meals a day. Healthy snacking is an important part of an athlete’s diet. Many athletes falsely believe snacking is bad, but there is a difference between snacks and treats. Snacks are nutrient rich. Treats are empty calories. Choosing treats can actually slow the fueling and recovery process.

Consistency Connection: If you want to maximize your energy and ensure peak performance, you must fuel your body correctly. Proper nutrition can make the difference between Winning and losing.

Yancey Sanderson
Follow me on Twitter @YanceySanderson

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