The 2 Biggest Problems with Youth Sports Nutrition
This was the answer I received when I asked a young Strength Coach what he told his high school athletes to eat after workouts:
"Post workout, my high school athletes take 12 grams of BCAA's, 1,500 mg of Fish Oil and a carbohydrate protein drink with a ratio of 60% carb/40% protein - specifically isolated whey protein"
I couldn't believe my ears.
This was the answer I received when I asked a young Strength Coach what he told his high school athletes to eat after workouts. And I've got to tell you, it's the same game we play with the training side of our work also.
In no particular order, here are the distinct problems I see with the training/nutritional aspects of working with young athletes:
1. We Over-Complicate
Undulating styles of advanced periodization models and involved 'nutritional cocktails' seem to be where a number of Strength Coaches and Coaches go with their young athletes these days.
And I think most of them do this kind of stuff in order to feel and sound important.
I've got absolutely no problem with 'scientific' styles of training and feeding your athletes when it applies and makes sense, but almost every single young athlete I have ever trained was one thing and one thing only...
... A teenager!
They eat like crap and train just as badly. They don't need 'advanced' elements of anything - they need the
basics as a building block in order to develop a foundation for the next level.
2. We Pretend They Are 'Elite'
I don't care if they are 'All Americans' in their respective sport, I have never worked with a young athlete who I would consider to be of 'elite' level status. Elite athletes live to train. That is their job and in many cases, their livelihood.
I think this is where the self-important Strength Coaches lose their way. A young athlete may in fact be an All-American and display athletic ability and biological maturity well above and beyond that of a 'normal' teenager.
But they still go to school everyday. They still labor with the same stresses that their friends have. They likely still eat less than 'perfectly' and don't get near enough sleep or recovery.
It's not just their ability that denotes them 'elite', it's the lifestyle they are forced to live that truly matters.
Now I am sensitive to certain issues related to nutrition that a young athlete should be taught to govern better than most do. Post workout meals, for example.
And while I can't abide by the kind of information that I hear about advanced nutrition for youth sports athletes, I do believe that a quality nutritional program is based on whole foods and appropriate nutritional timing.
- Eating at regular intervals.
- Consuming specific percentages of nutrients post exercise.
- Focusing on hydration.
These are the things I learned from Dr. Chris Mohr. As a nutritional specialist, his genius is in his simplicity.
Knowing that, I asked him about the whole "12 grams of BCAA's, 1,500 mg of Fish Oils and a carbohydrate/protein drink with a ratio of 60% carb/40% protein" question.
Here's what he said... after he stopped laughing...
"Post workout IS a crucial time, but young athletes are flushing money down the toilet with that kind of stuff. I mean, they're taking 10 different supplements a day in order to gain weight, gain muscle, lose fat or improve performance...But in between, they're eating Hot Dogs and sipping on Red Bills! Taking supplements and eating crap is like switching seats on the Titanic - It ain't going to get you very far!
Young athletes have to focus on what really matters - getting their food intake in order and laying off the processed, unhealthy stuff. That's what makes a champion"
Three cheers for the voice of reason!!!
Seriously, I absolutely adore Chris' honesty, bluntness and 'basic' approach to young athlete nutrition. In my own work with young athletes, I use Chris' "Fuel Like A Champion" DVD as a resource.
It's the most 'basic and effective' nutritional information I have ever seen. And I like it because it's truly a mixed bag of amazing information. Here's some of the stuff Chris talks about on the DVD:
- Specific nutrient timing for before and after games
- Sports drinks and when to consume them... or NOT to
- Protein requirements for optimal muscle growth
- Carbohydrate needs for improved game-day energy
- Recovery strategies for next day's training or game
Again, simple and basic, but effective as can be. Have a look at Chris' DVD for yourself:
I believe that nutrition is an absolute cornerstone to a young athletes success.
I also believe that too many Strength Coaches and Coaches over complicate matters and don't truly understand what they are talking about.
Chris does. That's why I listen to him. Here's that link again:
About Brian Grasso
Brian Grasso is considered one of the premier experts on youth athletic development in the world. More information about Brian can be found by clicking here and visiting his website.