Simple Nutrition Principles for Young Athletes

As a youth athlete and teen, there are many things that need to be taken into consideration when thinking about nutrition. A lot of what is becoming 'mainstream' in today's world does not apply for this demographic. And here are our principles and main focal points whenever talking to young athletes and teenagers about their nutrition


#1. You’re Still Growing

This is quite possibly the most important of all things to remember when it comes to adolescents. They still have many years of growth potential ahead of them, and for the body to grow it requires the building blocks, such as nutrients and calories, to support the building of strong, powerful, and lean bodies

These building blocks come from food, and unfortunately, an adolescent's diet is quite unbalanced in regards to including a good variety of nutrient rich, and protein rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, and lean animal sources

Our biggest focus point with every Academy client in this regard are the next three basic principles:

1. Consume at least five (5) serves of vegetables each and every day
2. Consume a protein source at every main meal and snack
3. Eat carbohydrates in moderate amounts


#2. Consume Five (5) Serves of Veggies a Day 

Vegetables are chock-full of vital vitamins and minerals that help to protect the body, and give it exactly what it needs to function properly. The latest numbers found that ONLY 6% of those aged between 9-18yrs meet their vegetable requirements a day - an alarming statistic

Vegetables don’t need to be mundane and boring, and they can, in fact, be quite delicious. Not consuming them, especially in a wide variety, is potentially harming growth, performance, and recovery in this demographic. There is a resource “Goodful” that post incredibly simple, delicious, and AMAZING meals that heavily utilise vegetables, and are incredibly simple to cook - we highly recommend you follow them for inspiration

And please, listen to Skittles when they said to 'taste the rainbow', as a variety of colourful veg will increase the variety of vitamins and minerals in the diet

#3. Have Some Protein at Each Eating Occasion

Proteins are our building blocks. They’re the bricks we use to build a house. Without them, we don't have the materials required for growth. Great sources include chicken, fish, lean steak, milk, cheese, yoghurt, beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds. Eating a protein source with every main meal and snack helps aid in recovery and growth by ensure a steady stream of them is in the system to aid proper growth


#4. Don’t be Scared of CHO

If proteins are our building blocks, carbohydrates are our workers. They’re what move the bricks to build the house. Without them, our bricks just pile up, and the house is never built. And unfortunately, people are demonising carbohydrates in today’s society, and everything is being taken out of context. Carbohydrates are your bodies preferred energy source, and your brains ONLY energy source - in fact, without carbohydrates, the body will break down it’s own protein and fats to create carbohydrate for the brain to use (a process known as gluconeogenesis)

The problem lies in the type and amount of carbohydrates being eaten. They’re essential in larger quantities for active, growing kids and athletes - however for the more sedentary individual, smaller amounts are a smarter choice. Everything in moderation...

Great sources include potatoes, tubers, rice, pasta, wholegrains, wholegrain cereals, wholegrain breads, beans, lentils, fruits, and vegetables

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#5. Make The Best Choice You Can At Available Time — & Don’t Stress

(N.B. This principle is used more with our clients who have come to us for a lifestyle change and to create healthier habits for life. All people, however, will find power in it)

People overcomplicate nutrition and stress themselves out at times. Food is simply just fuel for the body, there are no “good” foods or “bad” foods - some foods simply fuel you better than others. But there is nothing to stress about, as eating is a natural occurrence. And when it comes to this, we instil a simple mantra in everyone we meet “make the best choice you can that’s available at that time

What does this mean? Picture yourself travelling to a competition in Sydney for the weekend, and it’s been a busy week with work and life in general, so food couldn’t be prepared to take along the way. The traditional stop at the Twin Servo’s comes along, and some people begin to stress over this simple thing… simply relax and make the best choice available to you at this present time, or go with what your gut says - this is only one eating occasion, and won’t truly make a massive difference in the overall scheme of things

The power lies in consistency, moderation, and enjoying food and life


#6. Hydration Effects Performance More Than Any Nutritional Factor

Interesting isn't it. This one surprises many people. Athletes who are dehydrated prior to the beginning of training will experience a decrease in energy and concentration

It is essential that you are hydrating properly before, during, and after training - with a view to replacing electrolytes lost in sweat. This is especially true if your training lasts for longer than 60 minutes

Replenishing sodium, potassium, and magnesium lost in our sweat become the focus. This can be achieved through the use of sports drinks, and foods such as bananas and peanut butter. Sports drinks are preferred as they help hydrate as well as replace the lose electrolytes. Don't be worried about the sugar content, as these drinks were designed to help recover after intense training - the problem lies when they're consumed as an everyday 'beverage'. They're perfectly fine during and after hard training sessions and games


Implementing any of these principles in a young athlete or teenagers day can help improve recovery, growth, health, and performance. If you'd like more information, we highly recommend seeking out an Accredited Dietitian - you can find your closest one here > https://daa.asn.au/find-an-apd/ < or if you're in the Hunter region please feel free to contact us and we will put you in touch with one of our in-house Dietitians

Nick Maier