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Boost your performance today by avoiding the top 3 mistakes young athletes make with their diets. Your diet doesn’t have to be perfect, but these 3 mistakes can crush your athletic performance. Keep reading for game changing sport nutrition strategies to elevate your performance today!

Mistake #1: You Don’t Eat Before Training.

Many athletes don’t like to train on a full stomach, so they don’t eat for several hours before their practice.  This mistake will cost you your speed, strength, power and you won’t build muscle as a result.  We know that you will go faster, longer and harder if you’ve eaten something, anything before practice.  Even if your morning practice is at the crack of dawn, it is so important to eat something beforehand.  Of course, you don’t want to race right after eating a big meal, but a well timed, carbohydrate-rich snack is critical to fuel your performance.

Always eat 1-2 hours before training.

It is helpful to have a snack 30minutes to an hour before practice.  You can have a meal 2-3 hours before training.  This will fuel your training so you can go harder, longer and faster, without getting tired or slowing down.

Have a carbohydrate-rich meal or snack before training.

Carbohydrate rich foods are the main fuel for high intensity exercise. Your pretraining snack or meal should be mainly carbohydrate-rich foods with a small amount of protein.

Pre-Training Meals and Snacks:

  • Sandwich
  • Wrap
  • Sushi
  • Rice, chicken and vegetables
  • Toast and peanut butter
  • Cereal and milk
  • Overnight oats
  • Yogurt and granola
  • Fruit smoothie
  • Granola bar

If you are concerned that a full stomach will give you a stomachache, avoid eating anything too high in fat in the hour before training.  High fat foods take too long to digest and can slow you down during exercise.  Avoid fried, creamy or greasy meals in the hours before you train.

Fibre is good for you but too much fibre can give you some bloating, gas and discomfort before exercise.  Have the beans and salads after training, rather than before training.

Curious about breakfast before training? Check out this blog: Skipping Breakfast is Dangerous for Young Athletes.

Avoid These Foods Before Exercise:

  • Trail mix
  • Fried food, Burger, Pizza
  • Lasagna, Steak
  • Protein shake
  • Butter or cream sauce
  • Chili

Mistake #2: You Don’t Refuel During Long Practices.

Many sports have practices that last 90min up to 2 hours and most athletes don’t stop to have a snack part way through.  That mistake makes the latter half of practice seem very hard, slow and your technique gets sloppy.   Not because you are not strong enough, but because you are out of fuel.

You run out of fuel after an hour of training and your performance declines.

Have you noticed that you are strong and fast at the start of practices, but you get slower and tired towards the end?  You see, your muscles have a gas tank that holds enough fuel to last through 45min up to a 1 hour practice.  After that, your fuel stores run out and practice starts to feel HARD and you get tired and slow down.  This is not a training issue or strength and conditioning issue, it is a fueling issue.  If you have practices that are over 90minutes long, you will notice your performance start to tank after the first hour.  If you have an hour of dryland followed by an hour practice, your practice will feel really hard.  You miss out on important training adaptations when you run out of fuel and your muscles start to break down for an energy source.

You can maintain your performance until the end of every practice by having a snack every hour during training.

Have a snack an hour into your practices over 90 minutes long.

If practices are 2 hours long or there are two practices in a row, have a snack midway to keep your energy up and stay strong and fast to the end of practice.  This might mean having a bar while you are changing between ice and gym or the pool and dryland.  If you don’t have time to eat a granola bar during long training sessions, use a sport drink instead.

Great Snacks During Long Practices Include:

  • Granola bar
  • Dried mango
  • Banana
  • Sport drink

Mistake #3: You Don’t Have a Recovery Snack After Practice.

If you are not having a recovery snack within 30minutes after practice, you are missing out on a critical opportunity for muscle building and recovery.  This is perhaps the most common mistake that athletes make and the most detrimental.

Have a recovery snack within 30minutes after practice speeds up recovery, muscle building and training adaptations.

The timing of this snack is critical to refill your muscle gas tank for your next practice.  In fact, your muscle gas tank opens up for just 30minutes after exercise to take up any carbohydrates you consume in that time.  After 30minutes, the gas tank starts to close and the cells do not store as much fuel anymore.  If your recovery snack is delayed for an hour or two after practice, whatever you eat will not get into your gas tank.  This is a problem if you have another practice within 24 hours, because you will be showing up to practice with an empty gas tank.  Your next practice will feel particularly difficult and your legs will feel heavy and slow.

Missing your recovery snack, means showing up to your next practice with an empty gas tank.

With recovery snacks, the sooner you have it after training, the better.  Get used to having a snack with you in the change room or on your drive home.  Even if you have an evening practice and get home at 9:30pm, you still need a recovery snack.

Great recovery snacks have mostly carbs and little protein, 30-50g carbohydrates and 10-15g protein to be exact.  Recovery snacks can be simple every day foods but should not be high in fat so no pizza or trail mix.  You need to get carbs into your muscles quickly and fat will slow this down.  A protein shake does not work for recovery if you are not adding carbohydrates with it.  One tried and tested recovery snack that has proven itself in many studies is milk and chocolate milk.

Great Recovery Snacks:

  • Cereal and milk
  • Breakfast Wrap
  • Smoothie
  • Chocolate milk
  • Fruit + Yogurt
  • Protein Bar

If you want to be stronger and faster than the competition, make sure not to make the top 3 mistakes young athletes make.  Practicing these three sport nutrition habits of fueling before, during and immediately after training will help you perform your best at every back to back practice, right to the end.

Be Organized and Pack Your Snacks in Your Gear Bag.