Healthy eating habits for young athletes
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Healthy eating habits for youth athletes

Why are we all are creatures of habit?

We are all creatures of habit, and creating new 'good' habits and breaking old 'bad' habits can be a real challenge.

If you are looking to create or break a habit, it is really important to try your best to make that process enjoyable. One reason for this is every-time you repeat a habit, your brain gets a reward in the form of the ‘happy hormone’ dopamine. Dopamine makes you feel good, which can drive you towards repeating the 'feel good' behaviour again, and again - thus creating or reaffirming the habit! 

Why are bad habits so hard to break?

Dopamine doesn’t know the difference between a bad or good habit. Therefore what may be seen as negative habit, such as frequently consuming too much sugar, still serves a purpose to our dopamine receptors, thus making our brains feel good and keeping the habit alive.

For example, we often feel guilty shortly after performing a bad habit, which strangely enough can be a trigger for the brain to do it again, to escape through that momently ‘high’. 

What are some of the key habits for youth athletes?

Habit 1: Meal planning! Make a plan specific to your needs and be sure to make it realistic. If you're new to meal planning you can book a session with a qualified nutritionist through Youth Sport Nutrition 1-1 Coaching. Or simply watch YSN Nutritionist Ellen walk you through how to make your own!

Habit 2: Prepare your lunch box and healthy snacks the night before! Healthy snacks really can make a big difference. Check out the video below for some easy to make suggestions for youth athletes.

Habit 3: Breakfast! Make sure you wake up with enough time to eat breakfast. We've got tons of breakfast recipes that can be made in under five minutes. You can download these for free via the YSN Kitchen App.

If you're a swimmer, or you just have to wake up early for training, check out the video below for some pre-morning training breakfast ideas. 

Habit 4: Hydration! Stay hydrated by keeping a bottle of water (or sugar free squash) by your side and sip as they day goes on. We all know the negative impacts of dehydration by now (if not watch the video below).  

Exact water intakes are hard to establish as there are so many factors such as environment, heat, exercise type and individual factors, but The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommends children aged 9 – 13 years drink 1.3 – 1.5 litres daily: those over 14 years between 1.4 and 1.8 litres[1].

Fun fact - fruits with a high water content like watermelon, oranges and tomatoes aid hydration.

Habit 5: Sleep! Set a time to go to bed and to wake up. Bodies work in 24-hour circadian rhythm- this is our sleep/wake cycle. Getting enough sleep we can regulate hormones, enable muscle recovery and our appetite. We all know that after a good night sleep we always feel better, but the pull to watch the end of a film, look on your phone or chat with friends is a hard one to know when to call it a day – literally!

Habit 6: Set boundaries! Creating a balanced schedule is very important, ensure you have adequate time to fulfil your work/school commitments, without neglecting self-care. It doesn’t have to be anything radical, but try to ensure that your self-care takes doesn't slip down the priority list!

Habit 7: Checking in on yourself is important and this can be aided by the use of an app, or journal. Reflective practices like this can helps you look at your routines objectively, identify any habits you would like to improve, remove, or include.

Pro tip - “What gets measured gets managed." Peter Drucker.

Do you have 5 minutes spare every day? When you wake up note down the days actions/goals, and before bed take two minutes to write down and appreciate the days accomplishments, or moments you are grateful for (things you have enjoyed and how these have helped move you closer to your goals).

The mind is just like any other muscle, the more that you use it the stronger it gets. The more that those boundaries are kept in place the easier and autonomic the habits become – giving you the power to achieve goals and make positive change.

How Youth Sport Nutrition can help?

Youth Sport Nutrition understand that implementing a food-first approach is always the best option for youth athletes, but sometimes life is just too busy. We have created three products to help youth athletes overcome some of the common barriers youth athletes face when it comes to implementing a food-first nutrition strategy 100% of the time. 

If you struggle to get a good quality whole-foods meal in straight after training, or competitions, and you don't want to skip meals or you want to stop visiting the fast food / service stations on every drive home, you might find value in our PRO-TEEN or NUTRI-TEEN Shakes (rated excellent on TrustPilot).

PS - we offer a full refund on all products and services if you are dissatisfied. 

Don't just take our word for it... Here's Premier League Academy Nutrition Olivia Patel, with her take on the YSN product range.

Thanks for reading! Please share this article if you've found any value here, and as always you can add a comment below and we'll respond within 24 hours.

Natalie Rouse

First-Class Honours degree in Human Nutrition (BSc Hons), Master of Research in Performance Nutrition and Socio-culture (MRES), Registered and accredited Nutritionist with the Association for Nutrition (ANutri), and Nutritional Consultant and Nutritional Research Scientist (RSci).



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