Keep Your Teen Athlete Fueled With These 4 Vital Tips
High school can be intense, but being a student athlete can intensify expectations.
As the start of spring sports approaches, the stakes are even higher for your student to maintain the success they had first semester. There are practices, matches and conference finals that have to fit in with exams and semester-long projects. Being a standout in the classroom and on the field requires expert-level planning and execution.
That's where parents play a huge role in helping their teen athletes keep it all in balance. Here are four easy tips to help you ensure that your teen is ready for a great season, on and off the field.
Food: Allison Maurer – a sports dietitian and Gatorade consultant who has worked with high school and collegiate athletes – says, "The important thing to remember is that food is fuel. It gives athletes the energy they need to perform and also helps them recover. When planning your athletes' meals, look for whole food sources that provide high-quality fats, lean proteins and complex carbohydrates. Talk to your athlete about his or her fuel strategy before, during and after practices and games, and offer support by providing healthy, energy rich snacks."
Hydration: When exercising hard, the body cools itself through sweat. If body mass is reduced by about 2 percent, which would be 3 pounds of water weight loss in a 150-pound athlete, it can negatively affect performance, according to the National Athletic Trainers' Association's (NATA) Position Statement on Fluid Replacement for Athletes.
"Athletes lose more than water in sweat, so it's important that they take their hydration seriously since it can impact performance," Maurer says. "There are a number of products to meet an athlete's hydration and fueling preferences. For those looking for an organic fueling option, I recommend G Organic, Gatorade's latest product. It's made with only seven ingredients and provides the same hydration benefits that athletes expect from Gatorade."
Rest: Although teens may seem to bounce back easily from a night with too little rest, the truth is that good sleep helps both learning and athletic performance. Sleep helps athletes recover, especially after they've pushed their limits in an intense workout. Being rested can also improve reaction time, as well as speed and accuracy. In addition, teens with earlier bedtimes had better grades than those who stayed up later and slept less, according to a study of 3,000 subjects cited by the National Sleep Foundation.
Talk about these benefits with your athlete, and encourage them to go to bed and rise at the same time each day. Also, the glowing light of electronic devices can also interfere with sleep. So, help your teen come up with a strategy to power down an hour or so before bedtime in order to prepare their minds for a night of restorative sleep.
Planning: Schedules have a way of colliding, and this especially happens when a huge test and a game are scheduled for the same day. Each week, sit down with your student athlete and walk through that week's schedule. Look at practices, games, homework assignments and tests, and create a calendar. That way, if a midterm and a game take place on the same day, he or she can plan accordingly. This will help avoid a late-night, stress-filled cram session that will steal from their performance in the classroom and on the field.
Life as a student athlete means keeping everything in balance. By focusing on the body – from nutrition to time management – athletes can focus on giving their best performance this upcoming season.