Adolescents are always on the go. Just read this post from earlier in the week to be reminded of that!
They’re social, athletic, and studious. Up before 7:00 am, off to class by 8:15 am, engaging with teachers in academic courses until 3:00 pm. And then their days start to get busy; afternoon athletic and activities, followed by dinner and extra help sessions prior to study hall at 8:00 pm. Students navigate friendships, hair products, socializing, and what to wear to formal. They lug heavy backpacks from one building to the next, study for tests and quizzes, absorb algebraic equations and constitutional arguments. Study hall ends at 10:00 pm, and then there’s dorm life, roommate negotiations, and writing that college essay due yesterday. If they’re lucky? Lights out at 11.
The next day: Repeat.
All of this requires a great deal of energy; emotional energy, physical energy, and cognitive energy. Without the right fuel, performance as a student, athlete, creative artist, and the ability to cope with emotional stresses are compromised. Unfortunately, many teenagers do not realize the impact their diet plays in their ability to perform as a student, athlete, and creative being.
At Proctor, we are starting to help them make connections between nutrition and performance. Certified Sports Nutrition Specialist and science teacher, Amy Makechnie P ’17, works with Proctor’s athletic teams on sports nutrition and shares the following information with students (and faculty/staff!) about optimizing their performance in all aspects of their life.
At the heart of good brain health is proper nutrition. Complex carbohydrates like leafy greens provide long-lasting and slow-release energy, helping teens focus, concentrate, and stay alert in and out of class time. White sugar and simple carbs spike energy, they are quick-lasting and lead to nap instead of note-taking. Second to infancy, adolescence is the most critical time for nutritious eating. In addition to carbohydrates, a healthy brain also needs protein and good fats found in foods like salmon, avocado, and nuts, rather than the saturated and trans-fats found in processed foods.
Perhaps no other factor is as important to athletic performance as good nutrition. The American College of Sports Medicine states that during high physical activity, energy and nutrients are found in carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) and protein sources (for example: chicken, fish, and beans). Nutrient needs must be met to maintain body weight, replenish glycogen stores, and provide adequate protein to build and repair tissue. Fat (such as full-fat dairy) intake should be sufficient to provide essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins. In addition, fat contributes to energy for weight maintenance.
Without proper nutrition, we cannot run as fast, play as hard, or maintain high levels of performance because our body does not have enough fuel in the tank. Poor nutrition makes us more susceptible to bone breaks, muscle tears, and a compromised immune system which keeps us sidelined instead of on the athletic field.
Related to academic performance is creativity. Thinking, creating, and problem-solving skills, so valued in a Proctor student, are more likely to be achieved if the brain is nourished by a well-balanced diet. Dr. Amen, a clinical neuroscientist, brain-imaging expert, and bestselling author suggests an increase in water; eating nutrient dense foods instead of “empty calories;” increasing antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables; and balancing protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
Check out the video above if you haven't already seen it on the Buzz main page, as Amy takes Proctor students through a nutritional lesson in the Canon Dining Hall!
Proctor’s Dining Services team has long prepared fresh, homemade foods for the Proctor community, and has made a significant effort to enhance healthy offerings in the dining hall this year. They strive to balance and emphasize healthy fats, tasty protein sources, and complex carbohydrates at every meal. We know nutrition matters, and are working hard to help our students better understand that connection as well!
Thank you, Amy, for your help putting this piece together!