DNA recently sat down briefly with a member of the nutrition industry, to find out just what sort of impact health eating habits have on the performance of young athletes. Kahn Stephenson from Mass Nutrition, and founder of BuiltByGenY Bootcamps, provided some insight that may be of interest to young athletes and their parents, including the misconception of the value of fat in a diet. Take a look:
DNA: What sort of role does nutrition play for young athletes?
Kahn: As a young athlete, although the specifics will change depending on the individual and what sort of performance level they’re at, whether they’re playing representative level and depending on which sport in particular we’re looking at, nutrition still plays a huge role for everyone.
DNA: For young athlete’s between the ages of say 8-16, how much different output can they get from eating right?
Kahn: Look, from the ages of 8-12, sport is primarily supposed to be fun. I guess from a nutrition point of view, of course you do want to have a good intake of carbohydrates, eat your bananas, try to avoid your bad sugars and that sort of thing, but enjoying yourself is obviously the most important thing. I suppose at say 16, the night before a game, it is a little bit more important you are getting heaps of carbohydrates in and your good fats, they’re vital for the next day.
Eating properly will increase the athletic output of a player. They’ll be able to work harder, for longer. I suppose a good analogy is to think what sort of fuel would you want to put in your Ferrari? Would you go the E10, or the performance unleaded?
DNA: Although everyone loves a routine trip to McDonald’s on the weekend, what does that do for a young athlete and their recovery?
Kahn: Well it’s the sugar in Maccas that is the biggest killer, because you’re not going to be replacing your glycogen and all these other nutrients that will help you to not be as sore the next day, and not as fatigued throughout the week. As we’re growing up we do love a bit of Maccas after a game, but sometimes it’s better to avoid that, go home, have something nutritious to eat first, and then treat yourself after.
DNA: What would you recommend for young athletes the night before a big game?
Kahn: The night before a game dishes like a fettuccine carbonara are great, you know, get in some chicken, some pasta, throw in some veggies like onions and mushrooms. Full cream is good too, as I said earlier those fats are vital for the next day. You’ll get your carbohydrates from the pasta and those veggies will help you with your immune system support.
DNA: You’ve mentioned those ‘vital fats’ a few times now. I understand, contrary to popular belief, that some fats can be good for athletes?
Kahn: Oh definitely, 100% they can. Especially if you’re in any sort of contact sport, you do need to carry a bit of fat on the body. The reason being is that you need to protect your muscles, bones and ligaments, so you’re not too sore the next day, or so fatigued you’ll be tearing a hamstring.
As far as endurance sport goes, such as cross country running where there is no contact, or even AFL as there’s a huge mileage involved for the athletes, it’s still vital for your body to have those fats there because your body uses it as an energy source. Once your carbohydrates start to deplete, those fats become a source of energy for the body.