Most injuries happen around this time of the year for young athletes. Spring break is beneficial and a curse at the same time. Athletes are off and that’s when the bad habits come haunting back.
Not eating properly, spending too much time in front of the Xbox or Facebook, eating at odd hours and staying up too late and waking up late plays a number on the body. Now, I’m not saying that taking a break isn’t good for you. After all, your body and mind needs a little down time to recover.
What worries me is most young athletes don’t get back “in the game” without the proper preparation.
A good place to start is your nutrition. Especially with all the tournaments coming up, back-to-back games require a good sense of nutrition timing. If you don’t eat well during the days of your tournaments you will gas-out and have nothing left for game 2, 3 or finals. Here’s a good place to start:
1. I will eat breakfast daily. Unfortunately most teenagers leave the house without eating or drinking anything. You can’t think without fuel. You can’t physically function well without fuel. Imagine you have an upcoming game – we’ll use football as an example. Normally you’re on the offensive line. However, this time your coach wants you to play QB. Here’s the problem – you’ve never practiced. You don’t know any of the plays. And you can’t really throw that well either. Not eating breakfast and then being asked to “perform” in the classroom and on the field, pool, or court is like being thrown into a position you’ve never trained for. You’ll not function well. You’ll not perform like you should. And you may even get hurt. Fuel up for the day by starting off with a smart breakfast.
2. I will skip the energy drinks and instead get more sound sleep each night. Energy drinks are loaded with caffeine and sugar – two ingredients teens surely don’t need more of. Instead, make sure you’re getting adequate rest – that means you’re not texting at night, you’re not on your computer immediately before going to bed, and you’re phones are off to not disturb you as you sleep soundly.
3. I will replace the soft drinks in my diet with water. Let’s face it, teens drink too much sugar. Liquid calories from soft drinks, juices, energy drinks, etc lead to weight gain and replace healthier food options since soft drinks can fill you up. So skip the soft drinks and instead pick up a bottle of water.
4. Include some protein with each meal and snack. Most people don’t eat enough protein in the morning and afternoon and instead lump it together at dinner. The problem is your muscles continually need protein and all it provides to recover, repair and regrow. So rather than simply pouring some cereal into a bowl, consider some higher protein options – Greek yogurt with that cereal and milk. Eggs or hardboiled eggs which can be made ahead, or a protein smoothie, with a little protein powder, some fresh or frozen fruit and milk.
Examples of Pre-game nutrition: (You want a 2-3 parts carbs, 1 part protein).
2 hours before game time:
– 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt with a whole banana
– 1 cup of oatmeal, 1/3 cup of berries, 1 egg
– Omelet with 3-veggies, 1 apple
30 minutes before your game:
– Grab a fruit!
These simple rules are easy and very effective when getting back to “your game”. And don’t forget one important point I emphasize with my young athletes – HAVE FUN!!!
RISE TO THE CHALLENGE!
Vito Di Cosola – Strength & Conditioning Coach, Nutrition Coach