The two most valuable macronutrients to include in an athlete’s diet this basketball season.
Athletes of all ages have increased energy needs due to their rigorous training and competition schedules. Child and adolescent athletes’ energy needs are even more increased because they also have to keep up with the demands of growth and development. That is why it is important to make sure your young athletes are consuming enough calories and protein to fuel their growth and their exercise. Inadequate energy and protein intake can lead to poor growth, dehydration, low energy levels, poor bone health, overtraining concerns, and disordered eating.
Energy and protein needs depend on the age and gender of the athlete, as well as the level and type of sport. Carbohydrates are the most important fuel during training and competition. They can be used immediately for energy during exercise, or stored in the muscle and liver and used during high-intensity workouts. Getting adequate carbohydrates every day helps to not only energize your athlete for their training, but also replenish those carbohydrate stores, and be ready for the next competition.
Recommendations for adolescent athletes state that 55% of total calories should be from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are important before, during, and after sporting events. Low-fiber granola bars, ready-to-eat cereals, sports chews, or even sports drinks are great sources of easily digestible carbohydrates to keep an athlete fueled during their exercise. Before and after the competition, it is important to choose whole-grain sources of carbohydrates.
Competition-friendly carbohydrate sources:
- Whole-grain cereal, bagels, tortillas, pasta, granola, rice cakes, granola bars, pretzels, crackers, sports drinks, fruit pouches, exercise chews
Protein is also important for the growing and developing athlete. Protein helps maintain existing lean body mass while also supporting the new lean mass that is acquired during growth. The muscles that are broken down during exercise need protein to rebuild, repair and grow. Lean protein sources should be a part of every meal for the young athlete.
It is recommended for an adolescent that protein contributes 12-15% of the total calories in a young athlete’s diet. Protein isn’t necessarily as important during an event and actually, too much protein can have negative consequences like dehydration. However, athletes should eat protein sources like poultry, fish, eggs, and legumes 2-3 hours before a sporting event for fuel as well as after as part of recovery. Nut butter or protein-packed granola bars are a great option for fueling up less than an hour before the competition.
Competition-friendly protein sources:
- Lean cuts of beef, poultry, pork, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts, nut butter, legumes
Consuming a balanced diet and properly fueling during your sport season is important in maintaining a young athlete’s energy to be able to compete their best, as well as continue to grow and develop. Getting adequate carbohydrates and protein before, during, and after a sporting event helps the athlete not only perform at his/her best but also recover and refuel for the next competition.
Here are some recipes that include both adequate carbohydrate and protein sources:
Lemon Garlic Chicken & Orzo
8 Ingredients – 25 Minutes – 2 Servings
|2 tbsps Extra Virgin Olive Oil|
|8 oz Chicken Breast (boneless, skinless, cubed)|
|2 tbsps Italian Seasoning|
|1 Lemon (juiced, divided)|
|2 1/2 cups Chicken Broth, Low Sodium|
|1 cup Orzo (dry)|
|Sea Salt & Black Pepper (to taste)|
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and season with half of the Italian seasoning and half of the lemon juice. Cook for four to five minutes per side or until cooked through. Add some of the chicken broth as needed.
Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the orzo, the remaining Italian seasoning, the remaining lemon juice, and chicken broth and stir to combine.
- Lower the heat and simmer for eight to ten minutes or until the orzo is al dente and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Continuously stir to prevent the orzo from sticking. If needed, add some water.
- Divide evenly between bowls and season with salt and pepper. Enjoy!
Overnight Nut Butter N’Oats
9 Ingredients – 5 Minutes – 2 Servings
|2/3 cup Almonds (raw)|
|1/3 cup Pumpkin Seeds (raw)|
|2 tbsps Ground Flax Seed|
|1 1/3 tbsps Chia Seeds|
|1 cup Unsweetened Almond Milk|
|1/8 tsp Cinnamon (ground)|
|2 tbsps Cacao Nibs|
|2 tbsps Almond Butter|
- Add the almonds, pumpkin seeds, and flax seeds to a blender and process until almost ground. Transfer to a large glass jar along with the chia seeds, almond milk, and cinnamon. Place in the fridge overnight or for at least 4 hours.
- In the morning, divide into jars and top with pomegranate seeds, cacao nibs, and almond butter. Enjoy hot or cold!