Now that school is back in full gear and young athletes are accustomed to the day to day grind of, waking up at 6 am (or earlier) heading to a 8 hour school day, then rushing over to their sport of choice for the year. Now is the perfect time to take a good long look at what kind of nutrition these young athletes are getting and what kind of nutrition is necessary to fuel their long days. To start off with let’s take a peek at what kind of servings young athletes should be getting daily…
2-3 servings of lean meat, poultry, fish, or eggs
3-4 servings of milk, yogurt, or cheese
6-11 servings of breads, cereals, rice, or pasta
2-4 servings of fruit
3-4 servings of vegetables (cooked or raw)
Let’s talk about the importance of protein in a growing athlete’s diet. Protein is the nutrition source responsible for building and maintaining the muscles athletes rely on for competition performance. While knowing the importance of protein, we also need to be aware of the dangers of it, so that we don’t feed our kids a ginormous serving of steak on a daily basis. Research shows that athletes need between 1 and 1.5 grams of protein per kg of body weight on a daily basis. (About 75 to 100 grams of protein daily.) Start your athlete’s day off with scrambled eggs or a protein shake, a sandwich with lunch meat for lunch, and a serving of chicken for dinner. Snacks like peanut butter, nuts, cheese, milk, and yogurt can serve as additional protein sources.
Fluilds are extremely important in an athletes diet for good health performance. An average body requires at least 8 cups of H2O daily, but with athletes sweating majority of these fluids out, more is required for them. Athletes can lose anywhere between 3 to 6 cups of fluid during a hard workout. A dehydrated athlete will not perform at their full capacity because dehydration affects their endurance and increases risk of heat illnesses. If an athlete is thirsty, this is a clear sign that that athlete is or is beginning to be dehydrated. It is critical for athletes to drink fluids before, during, and after workouts.
The need for calories increases the more active athletes are, strenuous workouts (such as those of competitive gymnasts) burn more calories therefore their body demands a more nutritious diet. An easy way to increase calorie intake is to provide healthy snacks for athletes to eat throughout the day like fruit, energy bars, high calorie nutrition drinks and small snacks such as cheese or pretzels. The better athletes is always going to be the better-fueled athlete!
Finally, onto carbohydrates. Carbs are what the body uses and prefers to use as a source of energy. Keep in mind that the body can only store certain amounts, so overloading in carbs may have the opposite effect in athletes. Muscles depend on readily available carbs to function and perform at their best efficiency. Research shows that about 60% of an athlete’s diet should come from foods high in carbs like bread, pasta, granola, fruits, and vegetables. After a strenuous workouts athletes should replenish carbs into their body within 2 hours for storage and recovery.
Don’t take our word for it! Do your own research depending on what kind of physical activity your young athletes partakes in. Let the coaches do the coaching, and moms and dads should take responsibility for the rest of the aspects in the athletes life, but especially their diet!