How To Fuel Your Athlete's Body For Success


2017 cross country workout with Southlake Carroll.

Are you more like a high-powered Bugatti Veyron (one of the fastest cars in the world)…or more like your mom's mini-van? How you fuel your body, may be a contributing factor. St. Vincent Sports Performance helps keep US Olympians healthy. Now one of its top sports dietitians is sharing nutritional information that can keep you on track for high performance. Anna Turner says keeping your body fueled and hydrated is key.

1. Pre-practice snack/hydration: High school athletes should be fueling every two-to- three hours. After consuming lunch, two-to- three hours later falls perfectly as a pre-practice snack. Having a snack after school and before practice is vital to ensure that you have enough energy to practice as hard as you can. I often hear of high school athletes getting hungry (stomach growling) during practice and you don't want this to occur. Being able to maintain focus and energy levels during practice is vital to pushing your body to the next level. Aim for a snack around 200-350 calories containing 30-60g of carbohydrates.

2. Post-practice recovery: Post-practice it is very important to begin the recovery process as soon as possible. For most athletes, it may be an hour or more before they can get home, showered and ready for dinner. In the mean-time, pack an easy snack that you can have immediately after practice while you are still sweating. This snack should contain protein and carbohydrates to repair your muscles and refuel them for the next workout. A good goal is to aim for 10-20g of protein and 30-60g of carbohydrates. Examples include 12-16oz of chocolate milk or a Clif bar and a piece of fruit.


3. Carbohydrates: Are you eating enough carbohydrates for how much you are training? Make sure you are eating enough carbs to fuel your runs. For most competitive cross-country runners, I would encourage them to learn the U.S. Olympic Committee Athlete Plates (see below). These plates can help runners understand when they need more carbs and when a little less is okay. For example, during the training season, which is most of the year for high school runners, I would highly suggest using the Hard Athlete Plate, and when runners can get a week of rest in between season, the Moderate Athlete Plate is the best option. Chronically under-eating carbohydrates can run havoc on a runner's body and lead to low energy availability, which can then lead to things like iron deficiency and stress fractures. If you are experiencing chronic fatigue, low energy or have reoccurring stress fractures, consult your local sports dietitian to assess for energy balance to ensure you are consuming enough calories to fuel your body's needs.

If you are experiencing chronic fatigue, low energy or have reoccurring stress fractures, consult your local sports dietitian to assess for energy balance to ensure you are consuming enough calories to fuel your body's needs.

And what about supplements? Sports Dietician, Anna Turner, shares her thoughts. "High school athletes become increasingly interested in supplements because of a desire to achieve at a high level. As a sports dietitian, my philosophy on supplements is that it should be managed by a physician or sports dietitian. What I mean by this is that 90 percent of high school athletes do not have a perfect diet for achieving their desired athletic goals. Step 1 should be to work with a sports registered dietitian to learn how to manipulate the diet to get to the next level. Step 2 is getting blood work done by a sports physician. This blood work will tell you if you need the essential supplements such as iron, vitamin D, or calcium.  Step 3, after accomplishing Steps 1 and 2, is if you are still interested in pursuing supplements, work with a sports dietitian to decide what supplements may benefit your sport (examples: beet juice, creatine, collagen). After you know what supplement you are interested in purchasing, it is also important to work with a sports registered dietitian to understand how to purchase an NSF-Sport approved product. By purchasing an NSF-Sport approved product, you can ensure that the supplement is a safe and effective product."

So in short, your body is like a high-powered car. However, how it runs is somewhat up to you and how you choose to fuel it. High-Quality Nutrition = Peak Performance! Three most important nutrition components to keep a runner going.


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