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The best ways for youth athletes to build muscle mass

How can your young athlete(s) eat to increase muscle mass?

While the image of rippling muscles can be off-putting to many, particularly young females, an increase of muscle mass (big or small) is always beneficial for sports performance.

By increasing muscle mass, there is also an increase in power and strength – both highly desired by youth athletes to excel in their chosen sport.

There are also increases to their resting metabolic rate, decreased body fat levels, improved muscle function and improved bone strength to name a few [1].


Firstly, protein

Young, growing teens have consumed protein to aid muscle repair and growth for generations, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that the complete function of this mighty nutrient was truly understood.

Protein from the food they eat is broken down into smaller molecules in the stomach by a digestive enzyme called pepsin, which is then further broken down in the gut to amino acids [2]. Amino acids are often called the building blocks of protein and join to make chains known as peptides [3].

Specific chains of peptides are fundamental for many physiological processes such as muscle cells, enzymes, and chemical reactions.


Protein is regarded as the building block of life. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein!

If your kids are training intensively, their bodies will increase the rate of muscle breakdown, demand more protein and amino acids to aid repair, grow, and strengthen; a process called muscle protein synthesis (MPS) [4].

Overwhelming evidence proves that by ensuring the ‘right’ amount of quality protein to create a positive nutrient balance, that this will provide the perfect environment for muscle growth and repair.

MPS is the driving force behind the body’s adaptive response to exercise and represents the efficacy of the short and long-term interventions used to manipulate muscle growth via intense training and optimal nutrition - in particular quantity protein intake and timing [5].

Whilst increased intake of quality protein is beneficial for all, it is of prime importance for those focusing on increasing muscle mass, recovery, strength and power output.

An increased requirement for protein during exercise is supported by an overwhelming amount of research, denoting that if optimal protein intakes are not met, progress simply cannot occur [6].


Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates or ‘carbs’, have developed a negative reputation of late due to associations with sugar, and obesity.

However, starchy carbohydrates such as rice, potato and pasta are very beneficial to youth athletes. They support energy production, muscle recovery, growth and also provide fibre, which is essential for gut health [7].

Most times, protein gains all the praise when it comes to MPS, but carbs are also fundamental to the process.

Carbs are known as protein separating; meaning they can do the work of providing energy. This enables nutrient uptake to allow protein to do its job and focus on recovery and building muscle, instead of being used as a tertiary energy source.

There is a process in the muscle that forces MPS called the mTOR pathway. This pathway requires a few ingredients to ensure that their muscles can recover, grow and increase in strength [8].

The ingredients are: protein, amino acids (in particular the amino acid leucine - we will touch on that in another blog), carbohydrates and water.

When normal meal times are difficult, the best and most convenient means to achieve this perfect nutrient blend is by giving your young athlete a YSN Shake straight after training.


Rest

It may sound counterintuitive that rest is essential for MPS - but it is!

While training, gym and practise is the required stimulus to command young bodies to adapt and increase muscle mass. Rest is required to give their bodies time to recover.

It is recommended that there are at least 2 full days of rest per week. Activity can still take place such as walking, steady cycling and stretching, but intense workouts should be avoided [9].

On these rest days, there is an increased need for quality nutritional intake, protein, amino acids, carbohydrates and essential fats. When time allows, meals containing these elements are the best option, however if time is tight, a YSN Shake can be a perfect nutrient boost.


Naturally boosting recovery and muscle growth

Intense training, optimal nutrition and rest are the key elements to enabling muscle growth within youth athletes.

For those wanting to push MPS, an increase in overall calories is needed and this can vary from person to person – dependant on their sport, metabolism, lifestyle and genetics.

A easy to use base calculation can be made by ensuring your young athletes protein intakes are 1-1.4g per kg of body weight. Carbs 3-5g per kg and fats 0.5g per kg [10].


Testosterone

The word testosterone can often be accompanied with fear in sports due to the association of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).

Yet, testosterone naturally occurs in both females and males.

Testosterone is the key element to the reason why males recover quicker, have increased power and increased muscle mass to females [11]. Teenage males can start to develop approximately 10x more testosterone than females [12].

Youth athletes can naturally boost their testosterone hormone levels by ensuring 7-9 hrs of sleep each night, that rest days are factored in and that they eat a wide range of food to ensure nutrient needs are met [13].

Furthermore, high sugar intakes and alcohol both suppress testosterone production and should be avoided [14].

Youth athletes have naturally high levels of growth hormone (another word that is fears due to association with PED’s) as their bodies are rapidly growing and changing [15].

By ensuring that all the above factors mentioned are met, their bodies are in the most primed state in their whole lifespan to maximise muscle growth.

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If you want any help with designing a food-first meal plan to help build your youth athlete up, speak to our nutrition team today.

Youth Sports Nutrition mission and products

Youth Sports Nutrition products comprise of whole food ingredients that have been carefully selected to aid young athlete’s needs, taste great and add convenience to a busy schedule with calorie intakes at the forefront of formulation. The powdered formulas enable quick solubility in water or milk, to form a delicious nutrient packed shake that you can enjoyed pre or post exercise- helping aid recovery and increase energy.

Youth Sport Nutrition always recommended to opt for whole foods first, with supplements such as PRO-TEEN and NUTRI-TEEN shake and NUTRI-TEEN bars a nutrient packed way to top-up on high-quality nutrients, designed to support those youth athletes faced with a tight schedule.

Author
Natalie Rouse 

Natalie has a 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).  

 

References:

 

[1] 734649.pdf (hindawi.com)

[2] Absorption of Carbohydrates, Proteins, and Lipids (unacademy.com)

[3] Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins - ScienceDirect

[4] Human muscle protein synthesis and breakdown during and after exercise (physiology.org)

[5] Muscle protein synthesis in response to nutrition and exercise (wiley.com)

[6] s40279-013-0137-7.pdf (springer.com)

[7] Nutrition to Support Recovery from Endurance Exercise: Optim... : Current Sports Medicine Reports (lww.com)

[8] mTOR pathway: A current, up-to-date mini-review (Review) (nih.gov)

[9] Comparison of Recovery Strategies on Muscle Performance Afte... : American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (lww.com)

[10] International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise | Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition | Full Text (biomedcentral.com)

[11] Recover from physical injuries faster (biobalancehealth.com)

[12] Measuring testosterone in women and men (tahomaclinic.com)

[13] A Review of foods and food supplements increasing testosterone levels (imrpress.com)

[14] Alcohol’s Effects on Male Reproduction (nih.gov)

[15] HGH and TeensHGH facts and review of Anti Aging Health Supplements (hgh10.com)

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