Strength & muscle-building plan for high school athletes

How much protein do you need?

Eat about 0.5 - 1 grams of protein per pound of ideal body weight.

The first column in the chart reflects the "minimum" amount of protein you need. The World Health Organization set this level low enough to include third world countries. However, you need optimal amounts, not minimum amounts, for survival. Protein requirements for most people should fall between the Medium and Typical columns.

Studies show weightlifters might need .72g/lb. of bodyweight, highly trained cyclists might need .8g/lb., rigorous exercise training might require 1.3g/lb., and world-class weightlifters may use upwards of 1.6g/lb. A good rule of thumb for athletes is to eat protein (grams) to match your ideal body weight.   


Consume protein foods such as:
• fish, poultry, dairy, lean meat
• protein powder

Tip: Eat protein in every meal equal to the size of your fist. That’s about 6 ounces or about 25 grams of protein.


Protein equals better grades

On the athletic field and in the classroom you need a competitive advantage. To think clearly in class, your brain uses glucose and a fuel called glutamine. Glutamine is a protein (amino acid). Deprive your brain of these fuels by skipping breakfast and you’ll find yourself yawning, not paying attention, and hearing your instructor but not really listening. Don’t ever consider going to school without having a good breakfast including a healthy amount of protein. Cereal or toast alone won’t cut it!

Since most of us like to sleep in until the last possible moment, a protein drink makes an excellent choice for a quick, nutritious breakfast. Not only will you give yourself a chance to do your best academically in school, but you’ll immediately halt the muscle breakdown that begins to naturally occur in the early morning hours while sleeping.

If you wait to eat protein at lunch, your body will have broken down some of the muscle gains made during the previous day in order to fuel your brain and other parts of your body. Things like red blood cells and your immunity take priority over big biceps. By eating protein first thing in the morning, you’ll be able to add to your muscle gains from the day before. A side benefit to eating enough protein is your hair and nails will grow thicker and healthier too.


Adjust your carb intake to your activity level

Eat about 2-2.5 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight. Adjust your carb intake based upon your activity level (see chart). Switching between building muscle and losing weight is mainly accomplished by adjusting your carb intake.

Try to eat lean carbs such as:

  • yams
  • brown rice
  • legumes, beans
  • vegetables – broccoli, asparagus, corn, spinach
  • fruit (grapefruit, blueberries, oranges)

Avoid junk-food and high-glycemic carbs such as:

  • sugar, donuts, pastries
  • honey, jelly, jam
  • candy bars
  • soft drinks, punch


Consume healthy fat

Eat medium amounts of fat, not too much or too little. Fat levels should stay relatively constant in your diet whether you want to build muscle or lose weight. Fat is necessary to make hormones and to keep fat-burning enzymes working.

The only exception to eating fat is your after-workout meal. It should be low-fat so your body can digest this meal quickly (fat slows digestion).

Eat the most nutritious, low-fat carbohydrate and protein sources you can find. All of the food recommendations below contain some fat.

Consume your fat from lean proteins, nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables such as:

  • poultry, eggs, dairy (cottage cheese, yogurt, milk), lean red meat, fish, protein powders
  • almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds
  • fruit and vegetables (e.g., leafy greens) contain essential fatty acids (e.g., alpha-linolenic acid)
  • real butter, olive oil and coconut oil


Consider supplementing your diet with healthy omega fatty acids

Use olive oil or coconut oil in recipes and for cooking and sautéing.  You can also supplement your diet with flaxseed oil and fish oil, both rich in EPA and DHA which are vital for skin, hormone and brain health.  

Avoid bad fats such as:

  • french fries, fried foods
  • margarine, hydrogenated oils (trans fat)
  • non-dairy creamers

Using this approach, you’ll consume a reasonable amount of fat and won’t need to track your fat intake.


Total calories you need

Eat about 15-20 calories per pound of body weight.  Keep in mind that the 15 calories per pound rule is only a starting point. Try it for 2 weeks before decreasing or increasing your total calorie intake according to how you look in the mirror.


Total daily nutrient intake

Here’s a summary of the total nutrients you’ll need each day. Remember, this is just a guide and your own individual needs may vary.


Ideal meal timing & drink mixtures for athletes

The latest research clearly shows that what you eat and when you eat, makes a tremendous difference in the speed and quality of the results you get from your workouts. Use this information to shorten the time it takes you to achieve your physique goals and burst through plateaus.



Pre-workout meal

(1-2 hours before workouts)

Research shows that one to two hours before your workout, you should eat a light meal, drink a meal replacement powder (MRP) or eat a large protein bar



Pre-workout drink

(immediately before workouts)

The latest research data indicates that a small pre-workout meal supplement containing at least 10g of protein or about 6g of essential amino acids will minimize muscle protein breakdown during intense physical exercise. Whey protein is the preferred choice since it digests fast. Along with protein, consume at least 30-40g of high glycemic carbohydrates such as glucose, maltodextrin or glucose polymers. This helps spare glycogen for improved performance and results. This 3 to 1 or 4 to 1 ratio of carb:protein is found in most weight gainer protein powder formulas. You can also use a high carb or endurance powder and add a little protein.

When you exercise, whether it is jogging or lifting weights, your body produces a stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is actually your muscle’s enemy since it tears muscle down and converts it into fuel. The opposite is true for insulin which helps rebuild muscle and suppresses the release of cortisol. Drinking a carb-filled drink therefore stimulates insulin and blunts cortisol.

The result? More muscle gains! Not surprisingly, in one study cortisol levels dropped by almost 80% when athletes were given a 6% carbohydrate solution during exercise when compared to those receiving water. Another study showed that a high-glycemic, carb/protein drink was 38% more effective than a conventional protein drink in stimulating protein synthesis. Misunderstanding how these hormones work is why so many people hit plateaus in the gym despite their heavy workouts.


Mid-workout drink 

If you workout for less than one hour, just drink water. However, if training extends past an hour, during your workout you should consume the same high-glycemic, carb/protein pre-workout drink previously mentioned to help maintain glycogen (stored energy) levels for a longer workout. Researchers from the University of Texas in Austin found this formula taken during a workout with electrolytes, improved endurance 57% compared to water and 24% compared to a carb/electrolyte drink. (See Figure 1)

Post-workout drink

(0-45 minutes after workouts)

This is a critical time for proper recovery. You need to rush nutrients into your body preferably within 30 minutes of your workout. (See Figure 2)

A delay of an hour or two can make a significant difference in your recovery, muscle protein synthesis and glycogen replenishment.

By taking a carb/protein drink immediately after your workout, you will double your amino acid uptake and increase subsequent protein synthesis by a whopping 25% when compared to waiting a few hours! Plus, you’ll perform better during your next training session because your muscle glycogen will be replenished more completely. 

Another recent study revealed that those who supplemented immediately post workout actually lost more body fat than those who delayed eating after their workout. (See Figure 3)

The post-workout formula should contain at least 15g of whey protein (which is fast-digesting) and about 45g of high-glycemic carbohydrates. This is about a 3 to 1 ratio of carb:protein in a liquid form for fast absorption. Don’t mix this formula in milk since it will slow down digestion. Mix in water or juice.

Try packing a shaker bottle in your gym bag containing the dry protein powder formula described previously. As soon as you’re done working out or practice ends, add water at the drinking fountain, shake it up and drink it on the way home. Or eat a high-carb protein bar. Avoid fat in this meal (under 6g is fine).


Post-workout meal 

(2-3 hours after workouts)

After about two hours your body is primed to stimulate further muscle protein synthesis and recovery. This is the time to eat a regular meal. Eat about 20-40g of protein along with low-glycemic carbs. Lean meats and steamed vegetables are a good choice.

Stay away from refined carbs like bread, pasta, rice and cereal to minimize insulin stimulation unless you are trying to gain weight. Once the metabolic window to build muscle has passed, excess carbs and insulin will only make you fat.

Meal timing on non-training days

  • On non-training days, eat 5-6 small meals a day that are high in quality protein.Eating every 2-3 hours will keep your metabolism up and your hunger down while fueling your muscles with adequate protein and nutrients.
  • Eat starchier carbs earlier in the day and stick with salads and vegetables in the afternoon and evening.
  • Use meal replacement powders for 2 to 3 of the meals if necessary.
  • Drink a pre-bedtime snack of casein and whey protein or have some cottage cheese which contains casein protein. This slower digesting form of protein will help delay the muscle breakdown that naturally occurs at night.
  • And drink plenty of water, about a gallon a day.


Supplements & meal alternatives

Taking a multi-vitamin and mineral formula at this stage of your life may be more important than when you’re an adult. You’re still growing and you need to supply your body with all the elements it needs for you to reach your genetic potential.

A multi-vitamin can help make up for deficiencies in your diet, as well as help with skin problems like acne. Zinc and vitamin B-6 are needed to build muscle. Calcium and magnesium are needed to build a strong skeletal frame to compete in sports. B-vitamins are required for energy. Others help you make hormones that mature you into an adult.

There was a time when doctors told us we didn’t need vitamins. That’s all changed. In June of 2002, the Journal of the American Medical Association reversed its long-standing position and now recommends taking a daily multi-vitamin and mineral combination.


Essential fats from flaxseed or fish

As mentioned earlier, you don’t need to look for extra fat in your diet. However, there are one or two exceptions. Unless you consume salmon or herring all the time, you probably need more omega-3 fats in your diet. You can get them from flaxseed or fish oil.

Flaxseed oil is from plants and tastes rather bland. Therefore, you can mix a tablespoon into a protein shake every day or drizzle on your salad.

Fish oil is rich in two fats called EPA and DHA. Not only do these fats help prevent heart disease, they can improve brain development and attention in the classroom. That’s one reason why companies are adding DHA to infant formulas. Studies have shown that some children with attention issues have low levels of these essential fats in their system. Since fish oil tastes bad, most people take the softgel form of fish oil.

These good fats are also needed by your body to build muscle, make hormones, improve mood, improve healing, cushion joints, enhance good cholesterol and other critical functions in the body.


Protein and endurance shakes

Here’s what you need to know about the four different types of protein shakes on the market.

Whey protein or high protein powders are generally high in protein (25g), low in carbs (4g), low in fat (3g), and provide about 140 calories. They can be made with either whey, milk, egg, soy or a combination of proteins. Use them alone as a between meal snack or as a meal by adding carbs (mix with a banana).

Meal replacement powders (MRPs) are basically a complete meal in powder form – just add water, milk or juice.

Weight gainers are generally about 25% protein and 75% carbs. They’re less expensive than the above powders because carbs don’t cost as much as protein. A typical serving might contain protein (25g), carbs (75g), fat (5g), in about 400 calories. These products are very cost effective at providing large amounts of calories for those who are too skinny and need extra calories to put on some weight. Gainers made with fast-digesting whey protein also make great after-workout drinks because they provide the protein-to-carb ratios that studies have shown help you to recover and build muscle faster.

High-carb endurance powders are integral if you run track, cross-country, swim, play soccer or compete in any other endurance-type sport. These powders can help you compete at a higher level. They consist of either all-carbs (good for during competition) or are about 75% carbs (good before and after competition).

In a study done at the University of Texas, endurance cyclist rode a grueling 2 hours on stationary bikes, depleting their muscle-glycogen stores. Immediately following exercise and again 2 hours later, the riders drank 12 ounces of a carb-protein beverage (53g of carbs and 14g of protein) or a carb sports drink (20g carbs, no protein). Two hours after the exercise session, researchers found the carb-protein beverage resulted in a 128% greater restocking of glycogen (energy stores) compared with the carb-only sports drink. The combined dose of carbs and protein helps boost insulin levels, which in turn acts indirectly to stimulate glycogen rebuilding. Also, insulin aids the recovery and repair of proteins that may have been damaged during exercise.

Protein bars are a convenient way to get protein. They are great between meals or even as a meal replacement when you're pressed for time.

Ready-To-Drink (RTDs) are premixed protein drinks. Although RTDs are more expensive than buying powders, they are very convenient. They are high in protein (40g), medium in carbs (24g), low in fat (4g), provide about 280 calories and about 50% of the RDI of vitamins and minerals. A blend of fast-digesting (whey) and slow-digesting (casein) protein is typically used which will help you feel full longer. Keep them in your locker and use immediately after football, basketball, soccer or any other sports practice. Right after practice is when most teenage athletes blow it. They miss the critical nutrient replenishment window waiting for the carpool, walking home or waiting to eat until dinner. Don’t miss this opportunity!


Never take steroids

The temptation is enormous to go on the “juice” to increase muscle size. Unfortunately, over 6% of high school male seniors have given in to the temptation to try steroids. Here’s why you should stay away from these illegal substances.

They cause:

1. Male pattern baldness, acne, testicular cancer, liver tumors.
2. “Roid Rage” or violent, aggressive behavior.
3. A syndrome called “Acromegaly” where the skull gets larger, the cheek and jaw begin to protrude, and one’s hands might become broad with fat, stumpy fingers, and the skin of the face becomes coarse.
4. Ligaments and tendons tear easier from the extra strain placed on them from larger muscles.
5. Natural testosterone production decreases.

You can quickly build strength and muscle the natural way if you follow our recommended eating and nutrition plan.


Previous Next Back to Top
More Related Articles