Daily Nutrition Countdown for Young Athletes The 5,4,3,2,1 Rule

I’d say I feel like a broken record when it comes to talking to youth about nutrition, but youth don’t know what a “record” is.  I guess I feel more like a “scratched CD” or a “corrupted MP3 file.”  Nutrition is probably the most common weakness in young athletes and I spend quite a bit of time talking to them about it.  I’ve grown accustomed to blank stares as they mull over in their mind how they plan to beat the next level in their “Call of Duty” video game.  Besides, most youngsters have little control over their nutrition because their parents buy and prepare their food.  In order for kids to understand and comply with the notion of eating better, they have to have a clear, concise understanding of it.

In order to increase our young athletes’ understanding and retention of the most pertinent nutrition information, I’ve created the “5,4,3,2,1” rule. This simplifies and condenses our nutrition information into a format they can remember, apply, and repeat.  Not that they all apply it, but they retain and understand the basic information.  With proper mentorship, this stored information will become active at some point in their career.

Below are the “5,4,3,2,1” nutrition rules we hold our athletes accountable for knowing.

5 Meals a Day

Eat five small meals a day, each with a protein, carbohydrate, and a fruit or vegetable.  Eating nutritious food frequently is like constantly throwing logs onto a fire.  The energy you get from good food turns your body into an athletic inferno!

4 Pints of Water (At Least!)

Our bodies are made up of a large amount of water.  Nearly every process in the body requires water.  If you don’t have enough, you’ll lose energy, strength, and eventually have serious problems like dehydration or heat stroke.  Skip the sports drinks.  Drink water! You can tell if you’re drinking enough if your pee is clear.

Eat every 3 Hours

Eating frequently ties hand in hand with all of the benefits of eating multiple meals.  Eating nutritious food every couple of hours never allows you to “crash.”  Your body constantly has the vitamins, minerals, and energy it needs to compete and repair after physical activity.

2 Or less ingredients in the food you eat

The less “junk” that is added to food, the better it is for you.  A potato is a potato.  Potato chips have a little potato with about 20-30 chemicals added that your body has no idea what to do with.  These chemicals actually work against you being a better athlete.  Your body likes real food.  Look at the ingredients list on the food you eat.  If there are more than 2, and you can’t pronounce them or wouldn’t eat them by themselves, don’t eat it!

1 Day per week to eat whatever you want

It’s ok to eat whatever you want 1 or 2 days per week.  Most of the time once you get used to eating nutritious food, the junk doesn’t taste as good and it makes you feel gross.  Try to eat as good as possible during a week of practices and games.  During the weekend or an off day, enjoy some things you like, even if they aren’t the healthiest.

As you can see, this condenses quite a bit of information. When you are working with youth, it’s important to make concepts easy to understand. We have our youngsters bring a post workout snack to their workouts, but we have no control over what they eat at home.  These rules give them and their parents a basic structure to follow.  With this knowledge, hopefully there will be a synergy between athlete, parent, and coach that contributes to a youngster’s life-long quest for fitness, performance, and wellness.  Let’s create happy, healthy, pain-free adults!

Coach Brett Klika is the Director of Athletic Performance at Todd Durkin’s Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego, CA. He specializes in youth fitness and athletic performance, overseeing a staff of 8 strength coaches developing programs for over 300 youth per week, both athletes and non-athletes. In addition to coaching, Brett currently authors for a variety of publications, produces DVD’s on fitness and athletic performance and presents around the world on topics in fitness, wellness, and sports performance. Brett can be reached at brett@fitnessquest10.com.

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About kylesands
Director of Marketing at Fitness Quest 10

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