Importance of Recovery for Youth Athletes

Today’s youth face an extreme burden far greater than others ever before. They are swamped with school, sports, other extracurricular activities, friends, and family, their days are filled from start to finish. In addition, young athletes are often competing in multple sports and/or for a variety of teams, forcing them to skip out on crucial recovery between practices and sport seasons.

A common misconception regarding youth athletes is that they recover faster from hard workouts than adults; however in reality, because they are still growing and developing, adolescents actually require more time than adults for recovery between high volume and high intensity training sessions. Without sufficient time for recovery, high-grade stress stemming from constant training sessions, games, etc. over a period of several months can cause an athlete to fall into extreme mental, neural, and adrenal exhaustion as well as increase risk for illness and injury. Often times, athletes as well as parents  know when to stop or slow down; therefore, it is vital for coaches and parents to understand the importance of recovery and how to incorporate it into the their regiment.

Here are a few key points to help:

    1. Encourage youth athletes to have 1-2 complete rest days per week, and 2 complete rest weeks every 3 month from organized sport participation.
    2. Incorporate active recovery or lighter days into training. This could simply include reduced load and/or volume of training, or greater focus on mobility and myofascial work (ex. Foam rolling)
    3. Food is fuel and necessary for cellular repair, growth and development. Encourage athletes to consume a diet of whole foods (fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, and whole grains) and to drink plenty of water.
    4. The post exercise meal is vital. For optimal recovery, athletes should consume 20 grams of protein and 60 grams of carbohydrate within 30 minutes after activity.  Excellent options include: turkey sandwich on whole grain bread, Greek yogurt with 1 cup of berries, or an apple with 2 tablespoon of a nut butter.
    5. Be aware of your child or athletes emotional state. Athletes who have reached a state of over training often show lack of enthusiasm and personality or mood changes.
    6. Both training and rest are needed for muscle development. Training activates Satellite Cells and increases insulin-like growth factor, but muscle growth occurs whenever the rate of muscle protein synthesis is greater than the rate of muscle protein breakdown, which is at rest. Athletes need 8+ hours of sleep every night. Sleep is key for growth and recovery.

Sports are supposed to be challenging but remember that it should also be fun. Make sure your child is enjoying their sports participation!

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