• Samantha Olivier

Feeding the Sporty Teen

Proper nutrition is the backbone of building healthy habits and achieving prime results. Sports-oriented teenagers demand much attention and a lot of fuel for the challenging physical trials.

When they become professionals, they are under tremendous pressure to always be at their best and step up the game even when things seem to be working against them.

It comes as a no surprise that they turn to engineered food and dietary supplements in order to gain an edge in the competitive sports arena.

Acquire a taste for Nutrients

Alas, the food industry is leaning towards processes products that are devoid of many vital nutrients. There is a lot of misinformation floating around, energy drinks are consumed on a massive scale, and failed tests and recalled products are not an uncommon sight.

"The sound response comes in the form of embracing the food first philosophy and opting for supplements only when they add to the overall diet plan. This notion supports good health and enables top athletic performance."

The first thing to muse on are the changes in the habitual diet of a teenager. The goal is to come up with an intentional performance diet, and identify the appropriate types of whole foods. Steer clear of common dietary misconceptions and learn to debunk myths. One of them is that all fats are bad, which is absurd. Good fats such as omega-3s are paramount to the normal functioning of the body, and they originate from fish and plants. Also, you will come across vitamins and dietary supplements, and it is crucial to note that they are not meant to substitute real food.

Not all supplements are bad, but they often force you to take the good with the bad. The industry is poorly regulated, and claims on the label often do not match the actual content of the products. Hence, one must assess the legality, purity, safety and efficiency of each supplement. Pretentious and unrealistic promises are not the ones you can expect to be fulfilled. This is to say that there is definitely a place for mineral and vitamin supplements in a diet, but they should be used only in order to fill nutrient gaps, not as their main source.

Chicken Feed

The true power lies on the plate, and it cannot be replicated with a small pill or a sweet.

Food must supply your teen with a healthy mixture of proteins, carbohydrates, fats and fibre. Consume whole grains instead of refined ones, and utilise fruits, vegetables and beans for gaining precious fibre. A chicken breast cooked with natural ingredients takes down chicken nuggets overloaded with fat and flavourings at any time of the day.

Fresh berries are an integral part of the sport-ready youngster, not breakfast bars and toaster pastries. When your child has a sweet tooth, make a smoothie with yoghurt, bananas and blueberries. Such eating habits are a safe bet for boosting overall health, preventing diseases and setting the stage for top-notch performance. Scientists have identified hundreds of active plant-food components called phytochemicals— they break down fat and cholesterol, and act as mighty antioxidants. Without them, a growing body is at a higher risk of chronic diseases, menaces that could ruin any promising career.

"It may be hard to deprive a teenager of delicious junk food and sweetened products, but the trick is to consume these in moderation."

If one of the main goals is to moderate weight, then the 80/20 plan helps immensely: it refers to the practice of eating nutritious food 80% of the time, and going for indulgence every now and then. On the other hand, those who go overboard with processed and convenience food only undermine their health with a truckload of fat, sugar, salt, and additives. Keep it fresh and whole, for that is the best shot your child has to hit the sports mark.

Ahead of the Pack

Diet improves health and athletic performance, making or breaking sporting endeavours of young sports lovers across the globe.

"No amount of supplements can make up for the lack of nutrient-packed whole food."

Thus, stick to meals that are closest to the natural form of nourishment and avoid nutrient shortages at all costs. Educate your children about the pros and cons of using dietary supplements and teach them to evaluate the key properties of each product. A young, vigilant mind is capable of avoiding the many pitfalls on the road to dazzling success.


Samantha has a BSc in nutrition, and works as a personal trainer. Since then, she has embarked on a mission to conquer the blogosphere. When not in the gym or on the track, you can find her on Twitter, or in a tea shop.

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