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Nutrition Strategies for a Young Athlete's Optimal Performance

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Nutrition Strategies for a Young Athlete's Optimal Performance

Eating well-balanced meals and snacks need to be included in every young athlete's diet. However, on game days and the couple of days leading up to competition, your nutrition and hydration needs to be increased.

48 Hours Prior to Game Day

  • Eating more carbohydrates in the 48 hours leading up to competition is referred to as carbohydrate loading. This process will ensure your body has enough glycogen to be used as energy during high intensity efforts like sprints or jumps.
  • Prioritising foods like pasta, cereals, wholegrains and potatoes in that time is a great way to get high quality carbohydrates stored into the body. A general guide for youth athletes competing for around 1-3 hours, is to consume 7-10kg carbohydrates per kg of body weight.

Game Day

  • The morning of and up to 90 minutes leading into competition foods higher in sugar can be consumed to give you a quick burst of energy to use, some examples are 2 bananas, 2 oranges, 600ml sports drink, 500ml fruit juice or 2 sports gels with water. Each of these options provides approximately 60g of carbohydrates and are easily digestible. They can be broken down by the body and used as energy quickly.


  • Your hydration needs to increase to deal with the increased fluid loss during higher intensity exercise. Typically, you would aim to have around 2 litres of water a day, the day before this should increase anywhere from 3-5 litres depending on the individual, duration and intensity, as well as environmental factors (more on hot days). The day of competition try to sip through 750ml every hour and continue sipping water during competition when you can.
  • It's really important to include extra sodium in your water or your foods to ensure you aren't peeing out all the nutrients and electrolytes that you've been consuming the past two days. Your body needs sodium in order to properly absorb glucose in the intestines to then be transported into the blood stream. Sodium and salt also stimulate the feeling of thirst and so makes it easier to get more fluids in.

Below is an example meal plan for the day before competition. Foods can be switched out to suit your personal preference, but this is a guide to the amount of food you have to be eating as it is a lot of food. It's important to note this is just for days around competition and shouldn't be used as an everyday meal plan as the extra carbohydrates will lead to body fat gain.

Example for 60kg athlete (total CHO for meal plan 555g)

7-10kg of CHO by kg of body 7-10 x 60 = 460-600g

  • Breakfast: 1 serve muesli, 250ml milk, 1 banana, 4 slices fruit toast, 1.5 tablespoons jam, 1 glass orange juice - 250g CHO
  • Lunch: 2 rolls with meat and salad, 2 x 200ml yoghurt tubs, 1 glass orange juice = 195g CHO
  • Dinner: lean chicken, 3 cups cooked pasta, vegetables = 120g CHO

By following these simple and practical strategies combined with eating a well-balanced diet most of the time, you are setting yourself up for optimal performance.

For further tips, tools and ideas listen to The Inner Athlete Podcast on Spotify. We discuss all things youth athlete development and youth mentoring for parents, coaches and youth athletes.

Matt Hucul
Junior Strength Coach
Inner Athlete (AUS)

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