43 Ways Athletes Can Stay at the Top of Their Game


If you have a student-athlete in the house, you'll love these tips from the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) for ensuring that school-age athletes stay healthy and successful.

Eat Smart

1. Breakfast builds better athletes. Eat breakfast to ensure that you are well-fueled for games and training. Try fruit slices with cheese or peanut butter.
2. Snack attack. Small, easily digested snacks provide the balanced energy you need throughout the day.
3. Better pre-game fuel = better performance. Focus on complex carbohydrates, such as whole-grain crackers and cereals, which are easy to digest.
4. Pack post-game protein. Muscles need protein + carbohydrates to stay strong. Lowfat
chocolate milk, yogurt smoothies or cheese and crackers make excellent choices.
5. Good nutrition now = better bones later. What you eat as a teen fuels 15 percent of your adult height and 45 percent of your adult bone structure.
6. "D"-liver good nutrition to your bones. Vitamin D (found in milk and yogurt) helps calcium do its job to build strong bones.
7. Don't skip meals. An active body needs fuel throughout the day.
8. Size matters. Portion control is important to maintaining a healthy weight. Don't make your portions too big or too small.
9. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Drink water, especially during and after exercise.
10. Find fluid in foods. Lowfat milk is about 90 percent water, and fresh fruits and veggies are high in water as well.
11. Rethink your drink. Soda, energy drinks and sports drinks often are loaded with simple sugar and provide little long-range fuel.
12. Pack your snacks. The best way to ensure that you have enough pre- and post-game fuel is to pack your own healthy snack packs and coolers. Don't rely on what's available in vending machines or at concession stands.
13. Pay attention to your calorie intake, but not obsessively. Increase your calories with nutrient-dense foods when you're training harder than usual.
14. Read food labels. Know what you're putting into your body. "Energy" foods that list sugar as the first ingredient are likely not the healthiest choice.
15. Fresh foods, generally, are healthier than processed foods. Focus on fruits/vegetables, whole grains, lowfat milk/yogurt/cheese and lean meats/meat substitutes.
16. Color your plate. Brightly colored fruits and vegetables are great sources of antioxidants, nutrients that help prevent and repair the damage done to bodies during daily training.
17. Put it in writing. A food diary will help you understand and change unhealthy eating habits. It also will aid in creating good habits going forward.
18. Increase whole grains gradually. A fiber-rich diet is recommended for good health, but athletes should increase pre-workout fiber gradually, because fiber tends to be difficult to digest.
19. Think food, not pharmacy. Protein supplements are not necessary for young athletes, because 4 servings of dairy foods and 2 to 3 servings of meat/plant-based protein provide all the daily protein you need.
20. Get nutty about good nutrition. A handful of nuts will provide you with a good source of healthy fats, proteins and minerals.
21. Fruit first, juice occasionally. When possible, choose the whole fruit for the most nutrition. (Think orange slices versus orange juice.)
22. Kick the caffeine habit. Sodas, energy drinks, coffee and tea contain high amounts of caffeine, and can zap energy later in the day and cause water loss/dehydration.
23. Do dinner together. Teens who eat dinner with their families often are healthier overall, both physically and mentally.

Train Smart

24. Discuss training with an expert. Plan your workouts with your coach or trainer.
25. Train regularly. Consistency yields the best fitness results.
26. Vary your workout. Cross-train at least once a week.
27. Be flexible. A regular stretching routine will help prevent injuries. Ask your coach to build a stretching component into practice.
28. Warm up before you stretch. Begin each workout with an active, sport-specific warm-up to prevent injury and make stretching more effective.
29. Find a buddy. Partner stretching can be a fun and effective way to loosen up.
30. Balance your training. Strength training and cardiovascular fitness are both important. Be sure to pay attention to both.
31. Resistance training is important. Work with your coach or trainer to make sure that
you're doing this safely.
32. Train muscles that stabilize. Ask your coach to incorporate drills and exercises that strengthen stabilizing muscles, particularly your back and core.
33. Lift smart. High repetitions with light weights yield the best results for most teen athletes.
34. Train opposing muscle groups. Don't overtrain one group of muscles and neglect another.
35. Think ahead. Before you start training seriously for a sport, be sure that you have a solid base of fitness.
36. Technique is important in every sport. Focus on using good form.
37. Take care of your athletic gear and equipment, and it will take care of you.
38. Athletic shoes are an athlete's foundation. Make sure that you have the proper shoe and fit for your sport.
39. Keep a training log. Review it periodically with your coach.
40. Get to know your body. Learn to recognize the difference between soreness and injury.
41. If you're injured, work with your coach or trainer to develop alternate practice activities.
42. If you suspect that you have a head injury, talk to your coach or your parents immediately and make sure that you have a doctor's approval before returning to activity.
43. Be prepared. Put your best effort into every workout and practice.

Check out the full list of tips for healthy and successful student-athletes!


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