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I was asked by a year 12 student at Carmel College if she could shadow me for a day as part of a careers week, encouraging students to learn more about the career they may like to undertake when they complete their high school education. My first thoughts were “do not scare her away with all of your talking” and my second thought was how cool this initiative is for students to look more into the real world of a potential career instead of the fancy online facade of one. I probably did scare her away with all the words, but what I also did was ask her to research and write a piece on something she was interested in within the field of nutrition. Her questions, her attitude and her knowledge was both inspiring and a little humbling – there are some amazing young figures coming up in this world that without a doubt will lead a better way in nutrition than many before them. Here is Shannon’s article and a great insight into whole food snacking for a teenager. 

Fuelling your training and repair with snacks – from a teenage athlete point of view!

As a teenage athlete I am always on the go and needing to run from one training to the next so finding time to fit food in can be tricky. It can get very easy to grab a sports drink and a candy bar from a dairy, or high sugar power bars with little nutrition like some people do. As a 16 year old girl who trains 5-6 times a week, plus completes 1-2 weekly water polo games, I struggle to work out what I need, to ensure I am at my best every time I jump in the water. So, I did some research on what I need to perform at my best, and how to get that from whole foods. This is what I found out.

To get through a hard training session or game we need to fuel our bodies with food that will allow us to perform at our best, whether it is on a court, track, field, or in the pool. Our body’s requirements before and after training differ, which is why it is important to know what to eat in order to fulfil those needs. Pre-workout we are looking at foods that will give us energy that will last through a training session so we can maintain focus, motivation and physical ability. Post-workout we are looking for foods that will replace energy stores, hydration to replace lost fluids, and repair tired and damaged muscles. Don’t forget though, that all of this goes hand in hand with a variety of whole foods, home cooked meals, healthy fluids and quality ingredients in other meals in our lives!

Pre-workout

I know that when trying to figure out what to eat before training you have to take into account both the time of day you’re going to be eating as well as what you need from the food. An ideal whole food pre-training snack would contain a source of protein, alongside whole food fats and some healthy carbohydrates. The reason this is ideal is higher protein and fat will maintain satiety (being full and not hungry) and fuel your training for longer. The reason this is important is that you want to be able to eat something 1-2 hours before training that will have enough time to digest but also provide you with energy to get through the entire training session. The problem with loading up on solely carbohydrates before you train is that they break down into sugars, which will increase your blood sugar levels, release the hormone insulin and compromise your energy stability. In terms we all understand, this often make us super energetic for a short period of time and then crash into “hanger” before we’re done. Low energy is not a state we want to be in before we even start training.

These are my top 4 suggestions for a quick and easy pre-training snack

  1. Greek yoghurt with plenty of blueberries and a handful of almonds
  2. Veggie sticks with nut butters and a boiled egg (alternatively use home made hummus with olive oil, seeds, and avocado if you have a nut allergy)
  3. Smoothie made with spinach, banana, avocado, water or milk, almonds, coconut and coconut oil and optional clean protein powder
  4. Scrambelled eggs or an omelette with spinach and mushrooms (garlic and onion can cause stomach upsets during training for some athletes so best to avoid unless you know you’re fine)

Post-workout

Finishing a training session and being really hungry is a common feeling for teenage athletes. After a workout we often have little energy and have tired and damaged muscles from working so hard. We want to eat something as quick as possible but choosing the right things to eat can be tricky as we want something fast but we also want something satisfying. Healthy carbohydrates help replenish glycogen stores in our muscles and combined with protein and fat will encourage quality muscle repair. Choosing the right carbohydrates as your post workout snack will allow you to feel satisfied faster and give you a boost of energy that you are lacking but it is important to avoid refined sugars and processed fast foods, instead ensure whole foods and healthy options are your go-to.

These are my top 4 suggestions for a post training snack

  1. Home made power balls or energy bars and a piece or two of whole fruit
  2. Chicken drumsticks with brown rice/quinoa and some green vegetables (this is great for dinner and then taking the leftovers for after training the next day)
  3. Banana bread made with buckwheat flour and lots of nuts, seeds and coconut, topped with peanut butter (and even sliced banana)
  4. Porridge topped with nuts, seeds, cinnamon and a splash of coconut cream or organic cream on top