This last summer when the Olympics rolled around we heard about the enormous amount of food these athletes consume. Most notably swimmers like Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte are reported to eat towards 8,000 to 9,000 calories per day.
The foods they eat do not fit in line with the recent fad diets. They aren't low carb, paleo, vegan, and they aren't always organic. Calorie dense foods need to be consumed. Pasta, milk and protein rich foods are staples for most. Phelps was even reported to eat fast food multiple times a week.
I know many youth athletes do not practice for as many hours as Olympic athletes do. However, 3 sport youth stars, that have a high metabolism cannot optimally function athletically or grow muscle eating "healthy" like mom and dad.
Full fat dairy can be one of the best foods for muscle growth, recovery, and energy. Many studies support that milk, specifically chocolate milk is the best post workout drink because of the optimal macronutrient ratio.
- Whole milk: 30g protein, 40g carbs, 35g fat, 600kcal.
- Low fat milk: 30g protein, 40g carbs, 10g fat, 370kcal.
- Non fat milk: 30g protein, 40g carbs, 0g fat, 280kcal.
- Low fat chocolate milk: 30g protein, 115g carbs, 10g fat, 670kcal.
You can see the amount of carbohydrates in each. Carbohydrates help you recover and grow. Just because some gurus tell the 50 year old office worker to cut some carbohydrates does not mean that youth athletes and active people in general should cut carbohydrates and solely have whey protein powder with no carbohydrates. Also take a look at how calorie dense whole milk and chocolate milk are. This is key for athletes trying to increase calories.
Also studies shows milk is even better at hydrating people compared to sport drinks and water. Milk contains an ample amount of sodium and potassium that allow you to retain water.
As far as "usable protein", milk protein is probably the best. Why do you think every supplement company sells whey and casein protein (both derived from dairy)?
Some young athletes may have a dairy intolerance. There is a very simple answer. Supplement with a lactase enzyme. Lactase will help the young athlete digest the lactose.
In summary an active youth athlete cannot perform properly eating mom or dad's latest weight loss diet. Eat calorie dense whole foods to increase muscle and aid in recovery.