The Importance of Sports Nutrition for Young Athletes

 

2020-21 NFL Computer Predictions and Rankings Health & Fitness Parenting Sports & Athletics Sports and Parenting  young sports nutrition importance athletes  Proper nutrition is essential for kids and adolescents as it allows optimal growth and development. However, as young athletes train for long hours, their nutritional needs differ from their peers’ needs.

To optimize their training and boost their sports performance, young athletes need a healthy eating plan that will improve their energy and provide both for their growth and activity.

Why is Nutrition Important?

Besides giving your young athlete enough energy to engage in their exercise, healthy nutrition benefits the following:

  • Decreased muscle tiredness and soreness,
  • Injury prevention,
  • Strengthening of the immune system,
  • Muscle healing and recovery,
  • Increased focus and attention span.

Nutritional Needs of Young Athletes

Child athletes, engaged in competitions and strenuous endurance sports, have higher energy and fluid demands, and their nutrition has to keep up with their needs.

Besides getting the right amount of calories on their plates, they need a variety of nutrients to perform their best.

  • Protein helps young athletes build and repair muscles. Your child can get enough of it through a well-balanced diet that includes poultry, lean meat, fish, dairy, nuts, beans, and soy. Depending on their activity, athletes need anywhere around ½ to 1 gram of protein per pound of their body weight.
  • Carbohydrates are an essential part of young athletes’ nutrition as they fuel their bodies with energy. Make carbs a part of your child’s nutrition by including whole-grain foods, such as brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, whole-grain cereals, and plenty of vegetables and fruits.
  • Vitamins and minerals are essential for your young athlete’s performance. For example, iron is necessary to carry oxygen through the body, so make sure your kid’s diet includes plenty of lean meat, tuna, eggs, salmon, leafy green vegetables, and dried fruit. Calcium helps your child build strong bones that can resist stress fractures and breaks, so ensure they consume enough of low-fat dairy products rich with calcium, such as yogurt, milk, and cheese.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids are important for all the athletes involved in endurance, strength, and team-based activities. They are known for their anti-inflammatory properties, so they can speed up the recovery, lessen oxidative damage to the muscles, and reduce muscle soreness.

Nutrition Timing

Timing is also vital when it comes to sports nutrition for young athletes. Before practice or competition, the body needs a high-calorie snack or a well-balanced meal with enough time to allow for proper digestion. If the events happen early in the morning, young athletes should try to have breakfast at least two hours beforehand. For after-school training, young athletes should eat a snack 30-60 minutes before training.

Here are some popular snack ideas that you can include in your kids’ menu:

  • Crackers with peanut butter,
  • Yogurt with granola,
  • Fruits and nuts,
  • Granola bar with dried fruit or nuts and grains,
  • Half of a ham, turkey, or peanut butter sandwich.

After training, nutrition is just as important since the body needs to replenish nutrients lost during the training session. It’s best to have a meal or a snack within an hour after completing the activity, consisting of lean proteins, vegetables, fruits, dairy, and grains.

If your young athlete doesn’t like solid food right after the exercise, chocolate milk or a fruit smoothie made with yogurt might be the perfect solution to get them going until it’s time for a snack.

Encourage Healthy Eating Habits

Healthy eating habits, unfortunately, don’t come naturally. As a parent, you need to encourage them in your children by modeling the desired behavior that your kid will mimic.

Set your children a good example by having your meals together as often as possible. Set regular meal and snack times, and try to include as many healthy meals as possible.

Make eating together a pleasant and positive experience. Encourage having meals as a family, at the table, so that your kids learn to eat without being distracted by TV or their cell phones.

Explain to your young athlete the effects of healthy nutrition on their performance using a language they can understand, depending on their age.

Also, avoid banning food that you consider “bad” or “unhealthy” so that your kids can develop a healthy relationship with food. Let them enjoy an occasional treat, and instead of criticizing them for making a “bad” choice, put more emphasis on the food that will give them the energy.

Don’t Forget to Hydrate

Your child athlete must drink plenty of fluids to keep themselves hydrated. Dehydration can lead to loss of strength, energy, and coordination, resulting in certain heart conditions.

Teach your kids and youngsters to drink fluid before, every 15-20 minutes during physical activity, and after it.

Plain water is always a great choice, but sports drinks are beneficial when practicing longer than 60 minutes, as they provide additional energy and replace electrolytes.

Young athletes need to stick to healthy nutritional habits, even offseason, as it will help them when the competition days come.

 

 

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