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Five Healthy Habits for High School Athletes

We all know the saying, “practice makes perfect.” Becoming a successful athlete requires polishing your craft and ensuring your body is up to the challenge.  For high school athletes who want to take their performance to the next level, developing healthy habits is crucial in keeping them energized, attentive and performing at their peak. Craig Kilpatrick, M.D. from our PeakMed LifeCenter in Englewood, Colo. introduces us to some healthy habits for your high schooler.

We all know the saying, “practice makes perfect.” Becoming a successful athlete requires polishing your craft and ensuring your body is up to the challenge.  For high school athletes who want to take their performance to the next level, developing healthy habits is crucial in keeping them energized, attentive and performing at their peak. Craig Kilpatrick, M.D. from our PeakMed LifeCenter in Englewood, Colo. introduces us to some healthy habits for your high schooler.

STAY HYDRATED

Hydration is essential for our bodies to operate optimally during the athletic season. Water helps with digestion, temperature regulation, cellular regeneration, toxin elimination, and provides a moist environment for your throat and nose. Recommended water intake depends on factors such as age and gender. To stay hydrated, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommend the following daily water intake:

Boys ages 9-13:64 fl. oz./day
Boys ages 14-18:88 fl. oz /day
Men ages 19-30:104 fl. oz./day
Girls ages 9-13:56 fl. oz./day
Girls ages 14-18:64 fl. oz./day
Women ages 19-30:88 fl. oz./day

Exercise that causes perspiration requires an extra 12-20 fluid ounces per day. Add an additional 8 fluid ounces for athletes training at altitudes more than 5,000 feet. In general, your athlete is safely hydrated if their urine is colorless or lightly yellow and they rarely feel thirsty.

NOURISHING NUTRITION

Nutrition is what fuels performance leading to wins, state championships and even college scholarships. As such, proper nutrition is essential to growing athletes. Healthy eating habits include a variety of vegetables (dark green, red and orange), fruits, fat-free or low-fat dairy products and proteins (lean meats, eggs, beans, soy products, nuts and seeds). Less than 10 percent of your caloric intake should come from added sugars and saturated fats, so avoid those. The calorie needs for active young athletes is as follows:

GENDERAGE RANGECALORIES/DAYDAILY PROTEIN (GRAMS)DAILY FIBER (GRAMS)DAILY CARBOHYDRATES (GRAMS)
Boysages 9-13:2,000-2,60034g25g130g
Girlsages 9-13:1,800-2,20034g22g130g
Boysages 14-18:2,800-3,20052g31g130g
Girlsages 14-18:2,000-2,40046g25g130g

Ensuring a proper balance of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals is essential to the overall health of a high school athlete, their muscle development and performance.

PREVENT INJURIES

Teenage athletes are usually still growing, which makes them more susceptible to injury. As such, your young athlete should receive a pre-participation physical exam to screen for musculoskeletal and medical conditions.

Once the physical is complete, the athlete needs to look at injury prevention during the season. Here are a few things to look for:

  • Ensure equipment fits.
    Gear, such as helmets, cleats or running shoes that fit properly, minimize the potential for injury.
  • Pre-game warmups.
    Athletes should gradually “warm up” by slowly bringing their heart rate up with low-impact exercises, such as jogging in place or jumping jacks.
  • Actively stretch.
    Stretching releases muscle tension, helping protect against injury. Experts recommend a good stretch goes just beyond the point of resistance and should NOT involve bouncing. Stretches should be held for 10-12 seconds. Ample recovery time.
    Do not increase activity, weight, mileage or pace by more than 10 percent per week.
  • Cool down.
    Following a workout, athletes should cool down and repeat the stretching exercises. To prevent injuries resulting from overuse, obtain instruction on proper training and technique from a coach/athletic trainer. Additionally, athletes who play sports year round are more likely to develop overuse injuries and may want to take one season off per year.

BE A STUDENT-ATHLETE, NOT AN ATHLETE FIRST, STUDENT SECOND

While the perception of the “dumb jock” has existed for decades, researchers at the University of Kansasrecently found that children and teens who participate in athletics are actually more likely to do well in academics.

Get your high school athlete a daily planner to record important school and sports dates. Ensure they’re writing down important due dates for schoolwork, projects, tests and papers, giving school a priority over sports. Encourage your young athlete to not procrastinate. Make sure they take advantage of their weekends, free periods and study halls to get ahead. Look into school resources like, study groups or tutors if your child is still struggling.

MANAGE STRESS

Participating in high school sports can be stressful. Balancing practice, competition, school and other social activities, adds to the pressure of high school. Inadequately managed stress can lead to anxiety, withdrawal, aggression, physical illness or poor coping skills, such as drug and/or alcohol use. Medical experts recommend reducing stress levels by:

  • Eating a well-balanced diet and exercise regularly.
  • Avoiding caffeine, which can worsen anxiety and agitation.
  • Practicing relaxation techniques such as deep-breathing exercises and meditation.
  • Taking a break from stress by listening to music, talking to a friend, drawing, writing, or spending time with a pet.
  • Learning to feel good about doing a ‘good enough’ job rather than demanding perfection from yourself.
  • Getting a minimum of eight hours of sleep each night.

In the end, it’s important to realize that your high school athlete is still a kid, and being a kid should be fun. Strict rules and depriving your high school athlete of certain foods or activities is not a productive way to develop healthy habits. Instead, teach your student-athlete about the importance of nutrition, not just for performance, but health in general, but also allow them to be kids, too.

If your young athlete implements these habits into their routine, they’ll see significant improvement in their performance and be encouraged to continue putting these habits into practice. These healthy habits will help fuel your high school athlete through their next practice, game and throughout the rest of their life.

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