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Holiday Nutrition Tips For Young Athletes
Photo of Brian Halligan

The holiday season is almost in full swing, and that means food, food and more food! With Thanksgiving turkey, Christmas ham, cookies, cakes and pies, it doesn't get more tasty than that!

While young athletes with developing and growing muscles and mass have less restrictions on their food choices than college or professional athletes, there are still some dietary needs that young athletes should keep in mind—especially during the holiday season. After all, promoting healthy eating habits at a young age will only lead to a better-balanced diet in the future.

 

Your Choices May Be Limited

When visiting friends and family for the holidays, you may be limited in choices for your health-conscious endeavors. While we’re not saying you have to steer clear of your favorite holiday dessert, here are some healthy tips to keep in mind before serving your plate for Christmas dinner.

Although limiting your fat and carbohydrate intake is best, we also know you want to enjoy your holidays as much as possible. With that in mind, we encourage you to pay more attention to your portion sizes. Serve yourself some turkey stuffing—but just enough to satiate your holiday craving. The truth of the matter is, once you’ve made your way around your plate of holiday samplings, you’re probably going to be full, and you’ve still gotten to taste a little bit of everything, without blowing your sports-conscious diet out of the water!

 

Metabolic Crossover Effect

Even if the holidays fall during the off season for your sport, you should still try to limit your intake of fatty foods. At some point during exercise, which often means practices or games for young athletes, your body begins to shift to burning your body’s fat for fuel. Essentially, the more fat you have in your system, the quicker it will begin to burn up.

However, if you don’t have a lot of fat stored in your system, your body will begin to burn stored carbohydrates for fuel. Carbs can get burned directly in the muscles, providing instant energy for your body. Fats, on the other hand, must be first converted to quick-burning fuel before they can be used to energize your muscles. The fat-burning method requires energy to convert fats, even while you are burning muscle energy during your sports’ workout, practice or game which means that your body is using the energy it needs to play sports to convert fats rather than fueling your muscles.

When this happens on the court or field, it can cause you to slow down or become more sluggish since your body is trying to burn a candle from both ends. The more fat your have stored in your system, the more challenging it will be for your sports performance to peak and the more sluggish you will be during any physical activity.

 

Simple v. Complex Carbs

Cakes, pies, cookies and pastries are all delicious. They are all part of the holiday season, and they are also all loaded with simple carbs. While you will probably still enjoy more than your fair share of these yummy treats during the holidays, here are some tips for indulging without the negative results.

Simple carbs provide a short burst of energy as the body quickly digests them, but they provide little to no nutritional benefits. Complex carbs—things like oatmeal and brown rice—are packed with more nutrients and fiber and take longer to digest than simple carbs, making them a healthier choice for a well-balanced diet.

After finishing dinner and dessert, try to burn off some of those simple carbs by moving around. Throwing a ball, shooting some hoops or even going for a light job can help your body burn off those simple carbs while maintaining your blood sugar levels.

 

Have Fun!

The holidays are all about spending time with family, having a good time and enjoying some delicious food, and as a young athlete, that doesn’t have to change. While you’re enjoying yourself during holiday vacation, just keep in mind some of these healthy eating tips as you try to stay as game-ready as possible.

Striving for healthy eating habits now will only help you live a healthier life in the long-run, strengthening your body and mind for the future.

 

This holiday season, SquadLocker  can help you give all your favorite athletes the gift of customized team equipment, gear and apparel from brands like Nike, Under Armor, Adidas and more. Close your HolidayLocker store for your team by December 1 to ensure all your customized gifts are delivered in time for the holidays. Order your perfect SquadLocker presents today.

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