Food, food, food, glorious food – there are always so many questions and opinions and ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ answers when it comes to food. I am no nutritionist, or dietitian, just someone that has a passion for eating ‘healthy’. Nutrition is only part of the living ‘healthy’ lifestyle that so many of us strive for. Along with nutrition, there is exercise (which should include cardio, strength, and mobility/flexibility), lifestyle (sleep, stress, environmental factors) and mental health (positive mind-set definitely helps). In this short article, I have been asked to discuss healthy eating for teenagers particularly in sports performance. This is my opinion, and that only...
The really short answer, “eat real food”. By this I mean cut out the processed foods, if you want to perform at your best and have sustained energy, the best thing to do is fill your body with nutrient dense foods. Nutrient dense foods is real food, real food that has come from mother nature, that will provide you with minerals, vitamins and many nutrients.
You don’t need to be supplementing with protein shakes, if you are eating a well-balanced diet, you will find you are getting your body’s need through meat (preferably small portions), legumes, lentils, nuts, veggies. I don’t want to talk negatively of protein powders, as they definitely have their place, I have a small container in my cupboard of the “Clean Lean Protein” and there are other great brands out there too; but if you can get the real source from real food, then that is the way to go. If you are short on time to make a healthy meal, then by all means, a protein shake filled with veggies and avocado as well (recipe below) is a great option. Avocado is such a great form of healthy natural fats, that will help keep you fuller for longer. The right ‘diet’ in the media is always changing, when I was a teenager, I was in that era that fat was bad, but guess what fat was replaced with (to make the foods taste great)… sugar! So all the ‘low fat’ options I was eating, was actually just full of sugar, or it had been processed so much to get rid of the fat. Again, in short, don’t go near the processed foods (if it’s in a packet then don’t eat it, is a great rule of thumb), keep away from them and you will be fulfilling your body’s needs, its easy as that. And good fats, are exactly that, good for you. Olive oil, avocado oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, all provide you with a great sustaining energy.
“Carb loading” – again, NO, please, please don’t carb load on pasta, bread etc the night before a game; this is not required of you or anyone. If you are someone who is an elite athlete then yes your diet/lifestyle will be very different to us ‘normal’ people. You should have a diet catered to your needs, so I will not go into this in detail as here, as this definitely depends on the individual. If your game is Saturday afternoon, having a great healthy breakfast and lunch is all that is needed. Something I discussed with a friend the other day, was the importance of testing out any diet changes before the big event (i.e. a 15km running race). A month before hand, have a run through of what you want to eat, how much water you want to drink, just like you are going to on the day. As what could happen, is you eat, this ‘different’ meal, thinking you are filling yourself up with energy/carbs to keep your body going longer, but actually, your body isn’t use to the food or drink, and you end up with stomach cramps, or worse diarrhoea. For example, if your body isn’t use to having gluten in its diet (as you are focusing now on a diet full of real food), then you go and eat a really rich pasta meal the night before, the likelihood of this not upsetting your stomach is very very high.
Something I haven’t mentioned is the obvious, water; water is sooo good for us, and needed for our bodies to work to its full potential. Your body will lose water through sweating, breathing and digestion, so getting enough is important, especially when exercising. Sports performance drinks, again, along with protein powders this is something that is not required for you. Yes the All Blacks might have a Powerade before/during/after a game, but remember again, they are elite athletes, this will be tailored into their nutrition plan. It is not needed for a sports game, and it is full of sugar. Short answer, don’t drink it.
Some suggested meals for you:
All the best of your sports journey, I hope this article is beneficial to you, if you wish to discuss anything I have mentioned feel free to hunt me down on social media through Nicci Maree or email me - Thanks, Nicci xx
I'm not a dietitian, doctor or nutritionist...