Sports Nutrition Tip: The Key To Sustained Energy
Today’s article covers a topic that is essential to fueling consistently high performance and making significant gains in off-season training. It also happens to be one of the most misunderstood topics.
While carbohydrates have taken a beating in fat-loss circles over the past decade or so, the fact of the matter is carbs are not evil. Nor are they inherently fattening.
The fact is active people and young athletes in particular need carbs. That’s right, you need them. And getting the right carbs in the right amounts can boost your performance, improve your health, and make you leaner and more muscular!
What’s The Deal With Carbs?
When it comes to eating carbs, it comes down to 2 things:
Eat the right carb sources,
In the right amounts
You don’t have to over-think this, as it does not mean low-carb. It also doesn’t mean avoiding carbs at some times and having them at others. It is simply about choosing quality carbohydrates, and eating them in reasonable amounts.
Many people try to go too low-carb while training hard, and while it may work in the beginning, eventually it will come back to haunt you. Low-carbohydrate intake combined with hard training will lead to thyroid problems, cortisol (stress hormone that can actually break your body down!) and stress problems, as well as a decrease in testosterone and increase in estrogen. This will stall fat loss, inhibit muscle gain, decrease performance, lower your energy, worsen your mood and overall just make you feel lousy.
So just don’t do it! The goal is to get enough carbs so that you fuel your training, optimize recovery, and maintain optimal hormone status, but not so much that you feel sluggish and over-fed. To do that is actually easier than you might imagine.
So How Many Carbs Should You Eat?
My recommendation for active young athletes is to have 1-2 palm-sized portions of a protein rich food, and 1-2 fists of veggies at every meal, now we are going to add to that. For most meals you should have:
1-2 palm-sized portions of a protein-rich food
1-2 fists of vegetables
1-2 cupped handfuls of starchy carbs or fruit
To give you an idea, here is a list of quality carbohydrate sources:
beans (dry, canned, or refried)
fruit (fresh, frozen, or unsweetened dried)
oats (old-fashioned, rolled, or steel-cut)
potatoes (try a variety of colors – white, red, yellow, purple)
sweet potatoes (try a variety of colors – orange, yellow, purple)
whole grain rice (black, brown, wild, etc.)
In general, women should have 1-cupped handful of starchy carbs or fruit at most meals, and men should have 2 cupped handfuls, simple as that.
For the most part, this habit is just about getting most of your carbs from whole food sources, and eating them in reasonable amounts. However, this is just a starting point.
If you want to gain weight, or are really active, you should add another cupped handful of carbs to a few meals. And if you want to lose weight, or are only mildly active, you might want to remove a cupped handful of carbs from a few meals.
And remember, this is just a starting point. You should adjust your intake to best meet your: needs, hunger and fullness cues, energy levels, mood, training performance, body composition progress, and overall results.
While I am on the topic of carbohydrates… It might just be the hottest (and most polarizing) nutrition debate of the entire year...and it has to do with whole grains.
Some people think whole grains are a critical, health-promoting food group that should be part of every healthy diet. Others think they're evil little packages of inflammation-causing chemicals and toxins that make you fat and kill you slowly.
Sounds dramatic...and it is.
If you are interested in finding out whom is right you may want to read:
Below is a note I received this week from a long-time mentor. Mike Boyle is a legend in sports strength and conditioning and he's never been the type to pull any punches:
Parents are being misled. Yes, all the tournament and camp organizers are deliberately misleading you. Parents shell out thousands of dollars for exposure camps and exposure tournaments for their son’s or daughter’s. The organizers tell you that attending a certain camp or playing in a certain tournament will improve your chances of making the team or of getting a scholarship.
The bottom line is it’s not true. Four days of camp will not change your child. Neither will a weekend tournament. Parents make a critical error at the wrong time. The most critical time in a young athletes career is the summer. This is when a young player needs to train to prepare to have a great season. However, instead of preparation, parents of athletes with potential often choose exposure. The result is usually the same. The athlete goes to 5-6 “exposure” camps to be “seen” by college coaches. Instead of training and preparation the summer is about travel and “exposure”. The final result is that the athlete is not physically prepared for the season and ends up either getting injured or having a sub-par year. Coaches that might have had interest suddenly disappear. Sure things turn into maybes. Suddenly all the time spent on exposure seems wasted as there is no “product” to expose.
The road to college sports should go right through a weight room. I know this sounds old fashioned but it’s true. If your child’s goal is to play college sports, then, get ready to play. Don’t spend all summer trying to convince coaches how good you are. Spend the summer trying to get better so coaches will notice you. You can’t network your way into college sports and even if you can, in these days of email etc., send an email and a video.
Every summer I discourage the parents of some of the best high school players to forgo the five camp plan and train. Instead focus on the 1 or 2 camps that have the most value and, focus the rest of the time on training. The results are always outstanding. The players who train are clearly improved and the players who were seniors are all going to the college of their choice.
It works out exactly as I said it would because our plan makes sense.
The ideas of athlete development and athlete exposure are almost polar opposites. The key is to balance the need to be seen by and meet college coaches with the need to train to be able to impress coaches during the critical senior year.
Every sport has entrepreneurs and organizers who swear they know the answer. The problem is they have a vested financial interest in you and your child. They need you to make money. The truth is, so do training centers and sports performance centers. However training centers and sports performance programs help young athletes do exactly what professional and collegiate athletes do in the off-season, train. Most summer training programs are intentionally modeled on the programs that have helped high school; college and professional athletes succeed for decades. The programs are not flashy or sexy. In fact they are difficult and demanding. However, they are designed around a successful formula, not a quick buck strategy. This summer you have a decision to make. You can try to show everyone how good you are in a few camps or tournaments or, you can actually work at getting better and preparing for the seasons that really matter.