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Increase Muscle Tone with Better Nutrition (for Teens)

SwingFitt youth already have the exercise part down-- you guys are extremely dedicated to conditioning and training your bodies through physical activity. But what are you using for fuel? Nutrient-rich foods or junk food? One option promotes muscle growth while the other actually promotes fat storage. Can you guess which?

You probably already know that most exercise or workouts, including running, creates micro-tears in your muscles, allowing them to grow larger. However, what you might not know is this process relies on fuel -- which means you need to eat the right kinds of foods to actually build stronger, leaner muscles.

What to Eat

If you're a teen athlete looking to build muscle, you can't afford to be careless with your diet. Try to fill your plate with real foods, like high-quality sources of protein, whole grains, fruits, veggies, low-fat dairy, healthy fats, and nuts and seeds. Look for foods that provide these muscle-building macronutrients.

Get Plenty of Protein

The protein you get from food is what's necessary to repair those micro-tears that occur during your workouts. Registered dietitian Jill Castle recommends that teen athletes get at least 0.5 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Good sources of protein include fish, poultry, beef and dairy products. You can also get protein from plant foods such as nuts and seeds, beans, and some whole grains.

Stick to Complex Carbs

Carbohydrates get converted to glycogen in the body. Glycogen is stored in the muscles and used as fuel to energize you throughout your workouts. If you're regularly engaging in strength-training activities, registered dietitian Taylor Wolfram recommends getting at least half your calories from carbs. However, these should be complex carbohydrates, such as whole grain breads and cereals, fruits, vegetables, and beans, rather than refined carbs like pizza or Oreos.

Choose Healthy Fats

Fat has gotten a bad name in previous years, but it's actually necessary for overall health and wellness. Fat is yet another source of fuel that your muscles use to power through workouts or complete daily activities. Just reach for heart-healthy sources of fat, such as that in fatty fish like salmon, avocados, walnuts, extra-virgin olive oil and coconut oil.

Food Swaps to Make

Having trouble figuring out how to improve your nutrition? No worries! This can be challenging, even for adults. Start small and attempt to make more healthy swaps for foods you ordinarily eat. For instance, instead of making a sandwich with white bread, choose whole grain. Rather than snacking on cookies or candy, reach for a piece of fruit or a Greek yogurt. Sip on water or a low-calorie electrolyte drink after practice instead of downing a bottle of soda. These small changes can seriously impact your body's ability to build stronger, leaner muscles.


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