Our kids are busy. If your teen is into sport, they are probably even busier than the average teenager. Their days are full of activities including school, training and sports matches. All the concentrating, exercise and running around can leave them feeling depleted.

Good nutrition forms the baseline, providing the energy and nutrients your teen needs to get through each day and stay healthy. Are they getting enough, though? Especially if they spend a lot of time working out.
 

Good Nutrition For Teens

A healthy diet is important for everyone – young and old. Particular attention needs to be paid to the nutritional requirements of teens because they are growing and developing at a rapid rate between the ages of thirteen and eighteen. Not only does the food they eat need to meet the requirements of a growing body, but it needs to keep up with the fast pace modern teenagers keep.
Meals need to be balanced, providing energy and nutrients from all food groups. Carbohydrate, protein and fat in the optimum amounts, combined with plenty of fruit and vegetables at each meal makes it possible for your teenager to maintain their health and their energy levels.

Good nutrition helps to make sure your teen can focus in the classroom and spend hours training after school. But sometimes it is not enough. The very sporty teen works hard at keeping fit and perfecting the skills of their chosen sport. A pre-workout meal can help with the training session. But, what happens after the workout is equally important.
 

Why Your Teen Needs Proper Nutrition After Training

Muscles work hard during a training session or a sports match. They need energy in the form of glucose to contract and do the work that is demanded of them. While protein is a source of energy, its primary role is to build and repair tissue. During exercise muscle fibres are damaged, experiencing micro tears. Protein helps to repair these minor injuries to the muscle tissue, making the muscle bigger and stronger.

So, getting the balance right both before and after exercise is important. Proper nutrition after training has four recognised benefits.

1. Reduce muscle protein breakdown1
During exercise muscle tissue is broken down. It can suffer minor micro-tears or be broken down to be used for energy. Since sports conditioning requires more muscle mass and greater strength, any muscle that is damaged needs to be repaired. Otherwise the young athlete will continue to lose muscle mass and strength, resulting in a loss of conditioning and poor performance.

The right balance of nutrients, especially carbohydrate and protein, after exercise helps to ensure that the muscle tissue is repaired. Carbohydrates replace lost glycogen stores while the protein tends to the muscle fibers. The result is stronger, bigger muscles.

2. Muscle growth and immune support.
Scientific evidence indicates that ingesting protein following exercise can enhance recovery, immune function, and growth and maintenance of lean body mass. Consequently, protein and amino acid supplements can serve as a convenient way to ensure a timely and/or adequate intake for athletes. If protein supply is inadequate, then muscle protein synthesis is not stimulated and muscles will not be able to grow3

3. Restore glycogen stores4
When we eat carbohydrate foods, they are digested to their simplest form – glucose. Glucose is used for energy throughout the body. Muscles use it to contract. Because we are not constantly eating and providing the body with this essential fuel, it is stored as glycogen in the muscles themselves and in the liver.

When glucose levels start running low, the hormone, glucagon, stimulates the liver and muscles to release the stored glycogen into the bloodstream. During intense or prolonged exercise glucose stores can be used up. The result is low blood sugar levels, fatigue and deteriorating performance.

That is why carbohydrates are an important part of post-workout nutrition. If glycogen stores are not replenished before the next training session, your teen will be starting the workout with little to no energy reserves, making exercise difficult.

4. Enhance recovery
When your teen is constantly on the go and competing in one or more sports, recovery time is an important consideration. The four R’s of recovery to consider are: Rehydrate, Refuel, Repair and Rest5. All of these aspects of post-training nutrition and recovery need to be addressed to speed up recovery and prevent muscle soreness and fatigue.

 

Post-Training Meal Ideas

Giving your teen something to eat or drink after a training session or sports match can make all the difference in their future performance on the field. The ideal post-training snack should include both carbohydrate and protein, as well as micronutrients and electrolytes. Here are some ideas:

  • Yoghurt
  • Cottage cheese on wholewheat crackers
  • A peanut butter sandwich
  • Vegetables and hummus

Follow up with a hearty balanced meal at the appropriate time to promote overall recovery, muscle strength and replenished energy stores.

 

Proper Nutrition After Training Supports Sports Performance

Give your teen a leg up by providing the proper nutrition after training. Day-to-day activities are already draining on nutrition reserves in the fast-paced world our teens live in. Gruelling training sessions and sports matches can really take it out of your young athlete. Make sure they eat a well balanced diet that includes a meal or snack after exercise. It will help their body recover faster, build muscle, and improve sports performance.

 

References

1. Tipton KD, Wolfe RR. Exercise, Protein Metabolism, and Muscle Growth. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism [Internet]. 2001 Mar [cited 2021 Nov 24];(1):109–32. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1123/ijsnem.11.1.109

2. Kreider RB, Campbell B. Protein for exercise and recovery. Phys Sportsmed. 2009 June;27 (2): 13-21. Doi 10.3810/psm.2009.06.1705. PMID: 20048505.
Replace 2 with:

3. Joanisse S, McKendry J, Lim C, Nunes EA, Stokes T, Mcleod JC, et al. Understanding the effects of nutrition and post-exercise nutrition on skeletal muscle protein turnover: Insights from stable isotope studies. Clinical Nutrition Open Science [Internet]. 2021 Apr [cited 2021 Nov 24];56–77. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.nutos.2021.01.005
4. Postexercise Recovery — Proper Nutrition Is Key to Refuel, Rehydrate, and Rebuild After Strenuous Workouts [Internet]. Today’s Dietitian Magazine. [cited 2021 Nov 24]. Available from: https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/110413p18.shtml
5. Bonilla DA, Pérez-Idárraga A, Odriozola-Martínez A, Kreider RB. The 4R’s Framework of Nutritional Strategies for Post-Exercise Recovery: A Review with Emphasis on New Generation of Carbohydrates. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health [Internet]. 2020 Dec 25 [cited 2021 Nov 24];(1):103. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18010103