Many of today’s young athletes work extremely hard when it comes to their cardio training, weight training, and skill training for their respective sports. However, a significant number of them look past the role a good diet plays, both on and off the field. This week we talked with athletic trainer Travelle Gaines on the topic of nutrition for young athletes — here is what he had to say.

Food Pyramid

TT: Trent Tetzlaff, Eastbay copywriter

TG: Travelle Gaines, athletic trainer


TT: For a young athlete looking to build up muscle and get bigger and stronger for an upcoming season, what are some of the best diets tips and tricks you could give?

TG: Muscles only develop properly if they’re getting the right amount of nutrients.  Getting an adequate amount of nutrition can be challenging — especially for a high school student who spends a vast majority of his/her time in school, at practice, or doing daughter/son duties. With all of these factors, proper meal planning and placement of each meal is essential. Eating breakfast is key — every morning should consist of eating breakfast — and after that at least two or three additional meals to supplement you throughout the remainder of each day. Nutrition provides fuel for the body to function at a high level, feeds your muscles, and stores what your body needs to help your muscles reproduce and grow, while getting rid of the bad things your body doesn’t need. Your muscles grow from what you eat, how hard you challenge them, and how well you rest your body.

TT: On the other side of things, for a young athlete looking to improve their diet in general, what are some of the best nutrition tips and tricks you could give?

TG: Going back to question one, breakfast should always be on the daily agenda and at least 2-3 more meals but in smaller doses. If you’re looking to improve your diet, you definitely should stay away from fried foods and food high in fat content, such as: candy, cookies, chips and any similar artificial snacks that only taste good but have no nutritional value. Soda, sport drinks, and juices with high fructose corn syrup and sugar are also products best to keep away from. These are all problem foods and drinks that you must stay away from in order to better your diet.

TT: When are the most ideal times for an athlete to be eating during the day for best performance?

TG: The best time to eat during the day is in the morning as soon you wake up, followed by Lunch 2-3 hours later, then 30 minutes prior to your training session, almost immediately after your training session or 30-45 minutes after, and 30-45 minutes before getting rest.

TT: As a trainer do you recommend protein shakes to athletes for after a workout? Or are their negatives that come with the drinks?

TG: Protein is a key part of post workout recovery, and I do think that protein shakes are a good idea. However, within 30 minutes of finishing your workout is when your body needs it most. But protein shakes are not all the same. Read the ingredient lists. Know what you’re drinking. I use and recommend Core Power because of the simple ingredient list and the fact that it’s not powders and water – it’s the real, natural whey and casein proteins found in milk — 26 grams of high quality protein from real fresh milk. You can’t beat that, and it tastes great.

TT: If you could plan out a breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner for an athlete looking to eat healthy and build muscle what would the meal plan look like?

TG: Here is an ideal meal plan for young athletes looking to put on lean muscle:

  • Breakfast: 3 scrambled egg whites, 1 cup of oatmeal, 12 almonds.
  • AM snack: Kind protein bar.
  • Lunch: Turkey sandwich with mustard, 2 slices of tomatoes, lettuce, on wheat bread, banana.
  • Afternoon snack: Core power protein shake.
  • Dinner: Grilled chicken breast, sweet potato, broccoli.
  • PM snack: One banana.

TT: How important is a good diet in a young athlete’s training regimen?

TG: A good diet is really important in a young athlete’s regimen as it creates good habits, helps in lean muscle growth, and aids in recovery from training or competition.

Learn more about Travelle Gaines and his fitness program at