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Protein is King: Endurance and Recovery in Youth Sports

Proteins are involved in nearly everybody function of the body, and when we are low, it tells us. If we are not listening or don't understand the cues, minor health issues can quickly become major setbacks.

I have seen some of these setbacks play out among young athletes, 10-18-year-old football and baseball players. Health issues such as recurrent injuries, low energy and poor endurance are risk factors linked to muscle loss.

Current trends show that most young athletes lack the proper amounts of good-quality proteins in their diet. In guiding youth athletes, we must educate them on the vital role protein plays in organized sport.

Why Protein is Essential for Young Active Sport Players

Proteins develop, grow and maintain just about every part of our body. During an athlete's growth period, nutrient needs is at its highest. The role of protein in youth development includes:

  • Building muscle mass

  • Repairing damaged muscles, joints, and tendons

  • Supporting bone mass and growth

  • Promoting strength and fitness

  • Maintaining other body tissues

Many youth athletes today lack key nutrients needed to fuel their workouts. A proper mix of protein, carbs and fats in the diet directly affects how well they perform. With a balanced diet, the young athlete is better prepared to master the rigors of training. Since protein is critical to repair and build tissues, the right amount of protein suitable for the athlete's activity levels should be controlled.

How to Tell if You are Low in Protein

The average person needs about half his or her body weight in protein a day. For young athletes, more is essential. Protein intake is calculated based on body mass, age and activity level. The American Dietetics Association (ADA) set the following guidelines:

  • Athletes new to a training program require 1 to 1.5g of protein per kilogram per day.

  • Athletes participating in endurance sports require 1.2 to 1.4 g of protein per kilogram per day.

  • Athletes on a low carb diet must consume a minimum of 1.4 grams protein per kilogram per day for muscle building and repair.

Signs your Body Needs More Protein

Low protein in the diet contributes to low energy, moodiness and poor problem-solving methods. Without protein to balance blood sugar, we tend to experience exhausting highs and lows in energy and mood.

If an athlete eat too little protein, these conditions are likely present:

  • Trouble building muscle mass;

  • Slow wound healing;

  • Slow metabolism;

  • Low energy levels and fatigue;

  • Poor concentration;

  • Trouble losing weight;

  • Musculoskeletal problems, example: kyphosis or scoliosis.

Coaches, remember that physical training is just one part of the equation; teach athletes why balanced nutrition is vital to sports performance. If you need some assistance developing a nutrition plan for your team, contact us and we can help refer you to a certified nutritionist. Our goal is to reduce injury in youth athletes, so we are happy to help!

Melissa Pranzo is the Founder of SwingFitt™ and She is a licensed RMT trainer, a life-long elite athlete, and lover of life and sports. Melissa and her son, Cooper, live in Tampa where SwingFitt™ and are based.


#studentathlete #athletenutrition #sportsnutrition #protein #gamedaynutrition #muscle

Tel: +1 813-551-2255

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