This is often a much overlooked area when a child starts playing sports. Parents don’t hesitate to hire a trainer or buy the latest supplement, yet they barely pay attention to what their own child is eating.

Here are some basic rules for diet and supplements for your own young athlete.

Eat often.

Your youth athlete should eat a minimum of four times per day.

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Post practice
  • Dinner

There is definitely room in there for an additional snack between breakfast and lunch or between lunch and practice.

Eat quality food.

There aren’t any perfect situations, but keep the food from a box or wrapper to a minimum. Packing a lunch each day is an easy way to ensure that you have a quality mid-day meal instead of the gut widening, gas inducing pizza and cookies they’re serving at lunch.

Oatmeal and eggs or protein powder are great breakfasts to start the day with as is any other high quality protein and carb source. To really get the most bang for your buck at each meal, keep it balanced between quality protein, slow digesting carbs, and healthy fats.

If the athlete is attempting to get lean and lose some body fat, a lower carb approach should be employed, not just dropping calories. Save the carbs for breakfast and around your workouts. Stick to protein, fat, and vegetables the rest of the time. Almonds, walnuts, cashews, shakes, and beef jerky are all quick and easy snacks that can be kept in a book bag or locker and eaten quickly between classes.

Protein sources

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Eggs
  • Protein Powder

Carb sources

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Oatmeal
  • Quinoa
  • Whole grain bread
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Rice

Fat sources

  • Cashews
  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Natural peanut butter (or any other natural nut butter)
  • Olive oil
  • Fish oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Egg yolks

As simple as the diet side is, the supplement side is even simpler.

If you aren’t eating a minimum of four meals of quality food each day, don’t use any supplements.

Food and water are the most important things your body needs (after air of course). If the athlete doesn’t have the discipline to eat, he isn’t going to have the discipline to use supplements properly. Every other rule is contingent on this rule being followed 100 percent of the time.

Health comes first.

Forget all the fancy hormone killing crap and focus on health first. If you’re sick all the time, you aren’t going to make any gains or play in any games. Focus on what will aid your health and recovery. By that, I mean a full spectrum multivitamin and/or fish oil. This can also include some extra antioxidants like acai, pomegranate, or fruit extracts.

Performance comes second.

Once you are consistently covering your nutritional bases with quality food and supplementing your health and recovery, you can focus on performance. This is where something like whey protein and creatine come into play. For the beginner athlete, I believe those I just listed are plenty.

  • Whey protein: Use post-workout to help recovery. There are several types of whey ranging from whey concentrate (the least filtered) to whey isolate variations (the most filtered). If you try a primarily whey concentrate protein and it upsets your stomach, the whey isolates may be a better choice because they contain less fat and lactose. However, they are more expensive.
  • Creatine: There are countless types of creatine marketed today. The most popular (and most researched) is creatine monohydrate. Whether you get powder or pills, start with the minimum dose and drink plenty of water throughout the day. Water doesn’t include soda, coffee, or energy drinks because those all have properties that dehydrate you. Avoid all three of those while on creatine.

Avoid these supplements.

  • Anything hormonal: While the body is still developing, the hormonal system has to maintain a very fine balance. Messing with this balance can damage that system to the point where it doesn’t function properly again.
  • Stimulant heavy pills/powders: Most diet pills and pre-workout supplements are nothing more than caffeine and other stimulants wrapped in a different package. Aside from the obvious drawbacks like shaking, anxiety, elevated blood pressure, and nausea, there are other more long-term side effects. If used too much, the nervous system loses sensitivity to them so you have to take higher and higher doses of it over time. Another issue is that long-term use can make you dependent on them to function during the day. Not having enough caffeine or stimulants to keep you going can leave you lethargic and irritable, which isn’t conducive to athletic performance.

Another drawback is that long-term use can leave the nervous system burned out and unable to sufficiently stimulate muscle fiber contraction. In simpler terms, it means that if you’re on them for extended periods of time, they can actually make you weaker!