I had the honor of speaking at my dad’s release party for his most recent book. Because his book is about young athlete’s and their stories of success, he wanted me to share some tips on nutrition for athletes and parents supporting their children. Starting from when I was 9 years old, I steadily became more and more overweight. As someone who loved basketball and desperately wanted to succeed, this was quite a hindrance to any success on the court. It was in my junior year while I was playing on the JV team when the varsity coach told me I could play a significant role the following year if I was able to improve my athleticism. This started with a change in my nutritional habits.
Most athletes and parents of athletes are willing to put in mass amounts of time and resources into performance training of all kinds. And while hard work in the gym is crucial to improvement, proper nutrition can restrict progress. However, it can also accelerate progress.
Here are 5 tips that you can start today.
1. Drink water
My guess for any young athlete is that they are not drinking nearly enough water. Water allows the body to function. It is best to drink water consistently throughout the day as opposed to waiting until you are thirsty. Proper hydration aids in digestion, immune strength, and energy levels.
2. Eat vegetables
The popular phrase for gaining more energy is “carb loading.” Most people reach for pasta or other grain-based products. Yet, most people neglect vegetables as the ideal source of carbohydrates. Many veggies have higher carb levels than breads and pastas. Also, grain based carbs spike insulin in a hurry, which lead to a crash shortly after (i.e. the Thanksgiving nap. Despite popular belief, it’s not the turkey’s fault).
3. Pack a lunch
School meals were developed for low cost and quick disbursement. Nutritional guidelines are shaky, for example including pizza as a vegetable serving because it contains tomato sauce (isn't a tomato a fruit, anyway?). Pack your own lunch containing whole foods. A school lunch eaten on a daily basis will compound into decreased health and performance throughout the school year.
4. Take fish oil
Fish oil was made popular for its benefit on heart health. In addition, the omega-3 content it provides is crucial for cognitive development and joint health. This is a safe supplement for all ages.
5. Sleep BETTER
This doesn’t necessarily mean sleep more. Sleeping better means raising the quality of your sleep in addition to getting 8-9 hours per night. Better sleep involves a consistent routine of sleep/wake times along with your activity before you hit the bed. Try to avoid any electronic stimulation at least 30 minutes prior to bed. Yes, this limits falling asleep while tweeting or snapchatting.