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The Biggest Eating Mistake Teen Athletes Make

Life as a teen athlete can be pretty full. Between classes and homework, practices, games and trying to have a social life, it can feel like there is little “down time”.

Busy schedules are often the reason behind the biggest eating mistake teen athletes make, and for all these reasons, I can certainly understand. If it’s not schedules that’s the problem, it’s not knowing what to do or not having the right resources.

What is this eating mistake I see many teen athletes making time and time again?

Eating Randomly.

Eating randomly throughout the day, as opposed to following a planned eating rhythm, can hinder any athlete from reaching their performance goals. I’ve seen it time and time again.

Most athletes just let food happen to them in a day and it could look like any of these excuses:

  • I don’t have time to pack a lunch or snacks so I’ll just eat what’s available.
  • I don’t have any food so I guess I won’t eat OR I’ll just eat this candy bar because that’s all that is available.
  • I need more sleep in the morning and therefore I don’t have time to eat breakfast.
  • My mom or dad forgot to make me breakfast or lunch.
  • I don’t have enough time between classes.
  • My school day starts so early.

…and I could go on.

Randomness is the killer to optimal performance. Do you practice randomly? Do you play games or compete randomly? No; that’s absurd.

Why is the same not true for your sports nutrition eating style? There should be some thought or planning put into to.

But wait a minute…Didn’t I just say that teen athletes have NO extra time?? How will you make time to plan your eating?

Instead of thinking about food planning as “one more thing” to do, think about it this way:

A small amount of planning can make execution exponentially easier. Think about the concept of a game plan. Even against a very challenging opponent, a game plan brings comfort in knowing how to execute.

Another way to think about it is this:

A solid nutrition strategy is your secret weapon for success.

Seriously, how you feed yourself can make or break you in competition. It is a secret weapon against an opponent who does not pay attention to their eating strategy. It’s “the edge” that you NEED to succeed.

On other words, you can’t afford to not plan, at least a little, your eating. If you want to perform at your best, you have to think about your eating. It doesn’t need to be a crazy amount of effort, but it should be getting some energy.

So, how do you go from eating randomly to eating on purpose for performance? Start with any of these simple steps:

  • Make breakfast happen. Think about it the night before to make sure you have something to eat within an hour of waking up.
  • Make your lunch. You can do it. Take the 10 minutes and make your own lunch. You might not need to do this every day but it must happen on days when your schedule it up in the air.
  • Pack a snack. Bars are a great choice to throw in your backpack or gym bag.
  • Bring a water bottle to school with you. Ensure you stay hydrated through the day by being purposeful with your fluids.

If you struggle with figuring out a good eating plan for yourself, OSA can help. Sign up for our performance course, Weight Gain Strategies, which is not just for “bulking up”. It walks you through setting up your own eating rhythm based on your personal schedule to determine the best way to eat. You’ll also learn about the right choices for meals, snacks, pre and post workout nutrition. It covers all your bases. Check it out HERE.

Jenna Braddock is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics. She has been working with athletes of all ages and levels since 2006 to reach their optimal performance through solid nutrition strategies. She is also the founder of Off-Season Athlete. Learn more on the Coaches page.

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