Nutrition for High Intensity High School Sports
Alex, is a 17-year-old high school hockey player. Like other teens that
play high endurance sports, he participates in at least 2 long workouts
and 2-4 energy-intense games each week. All this, in addition to classes,
homework, and school activities, is a demanding schedule for athletes like
Alex who could greatly benefit from a sound nutritional program. Recently,
Alex has been looking for ways to give his performance an edge. While watching
one of his hockey games last week, I noticed that by the 3rd period, his
energy was waning and his performance sluggish. On the way home, we talked
about how nutrition can affect athletic performance and that by getting
on the right nutritional program could improve his endurance, speed, and
I first suggested to Alex that he stay well hydrated before, during,
and after workouts and games. Fluid loss can significantly affect his ability
to train and compete. I recommended he:
||Drink several glasses of fluids first thing in the
||Drink water between class periods at school.
||Drink 8-16 ounces of fluids one half hour before exercise.
||Water is OK for lower intensity sports lasting 45 minutes or less,
but Sports drinks are better for him since he participates in a high
intensity sport. Sports drinks contain electrolytes, such as sodium
and potassium that are lost with sweat.
||Carbonated and caffeinated fluids are poor choices to drink before
the event. Some runners like coffee before a run, while others do
not like the diuretic effect it has. Sodas will often reduce athletic
performance, causing the athlete to “bonk” mid-way through
the event. It is best to avoid these.
||Drink 6-8 ounces of fluid for each 15 minutes of exercise at all
breaks in practice and games.
||Drink at least 24 ounces of sports drinks after practice/games.
Next, I told Alex
to fuel his body regularly by eating at least 3-6 meals or snacks every
day. Breakfast is extremely important for athletes to refuel muscles. Stocking
up early in the day with nutrient-rich foods will get him ready for his
afternoon workout. Refueling after hard workouts with complex carbohydrates
and adequate protein will help keep him from feeling fatigued, replaces
the lost glycogen stores depleted during exercise, and helps with muscle
Actives individuals such as Alex generally need 55-65% of total
calories from carbohydrates during an event since they are the preferred
muscle fuel. Eating potatoes, vegetables, whole grain pastas, and brown
rice whole grain breads are good choices. However, it is important to eat
according to your Metabolic Type. Remember from our previous newsletters “once
a lion, always a lion”…in other words, if you need a lot of
protein to prevent a hypoglycemic event, you are most certainly going to
need it during an athletic event.
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