Why I don't talk to athletes about calories...
Much like a pound of feathers weighs the same as a pound of bricks... or walking a mile on a track is the same distance as walking a mile in the sand, 1000 calories of apples is the same measurement as 1000 calories of donuts. In general terms, a calorie is merely the measurement of energy value of a given food or beverage.
However, the quality of that energy is where extreme differences lie.
Think of any Rocky training montage: running up a snowy mountain.... jabbing in the butcher's freezer... racing on the beach...
there's a different intensity in comparison to training on a treadmill, heavy bag, or pavement, right?
The same is true for food. And it's also the reason why I don't talk to athletes about calories.
We often assume the level of activity of teen athletes allows them the freedom to eat whatever they want.
An athlete could easily meet their caloric needs to sustain their activity level by fueling on chicken nuggets, burgers, and chips... the typical "Western Diet."
This is by no means to say that fries, ice cream, and pizza can’t play a role in our athletes' (and our own) lives. But, the idea that young athletes burn off whatever they eat so -therefore- the foods they choose are irrelevant, perpetuates a cycle that's disastrous for their game, growth, and health.
We sometimes think of energy and endurance as interchangeable. Energy (whether it comes from a donut or an apple) may help an athlete get through practice. Yet, the donut doesn't provide the essential components to endure and thrive through intense activity and growth.
While traditional "Western Diet" foods provide essential macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat), they're often disproportioned for athletes and growing body needs. More importantly, they're also often stripped of the equally important micronutrients: vitamins & minerals.
Although vitamins and minerals don't extensively contribute to energy, they are fundamental for...
reducing risk of injury
supporting brain development
improving muscle recovery
strengthening bone and cartilage
supporting muscle growth
improving quality of sleep
improving digestive health
Fueling their game, growth, and health is more than consuming enough calories... it's about consuming enough nutrients.
Ready to make some nutritional shifts but not sure how to get your athlete on board? Wondering what your athlete's nutritional needs are to support their game and growth?