5 Nutrition Tips For Young Athletes

Growing children need healthy, well-balanced diets in order to provide energy and help them grow strong bones and muscles. Young athletes oftentimes have higher energy and fluid needs due to their increased activity time. Ensuring young athletes are eating the right foods and the right amount to match their body’s needs is essential for them to perform well on the field or court.

Sports Nutrition For Young Athletes

The nutritional needs of young athletes include vitamins and minerals, protein, carbohydrates, and adequate water intake. Although there is no “one-diet-fits-all” when it comes to nutrition, there are general guidelines that can help you and your child make healthy choices. Here at Wake Forest Pediatrics, we have put together 5 nutrition tips to help your child fuel and refuel for top-notch performance. 

1. Carbohydrates Are The Main Energy Source Of The Human Diet

Carbohydrates are the main source of energy in your body and fuel your workouts. With this being said, it is essential for young athletes to be eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes healthy carbohydrates so they’re primed to expend the extra energy that sports require. Additionally, carbohydrate intake also is necessary for proper growth and development in your child. Some great carbohydrate options include fruit, potatoes, milk, beans, bread, pasta, and yogurt.

2. Good Hydration Is Essential For Performance

The benefits of good hydration are plenty. Not only does drinking water keep your organs functioning properly, but it also helps to regulate your body temperature and deliver nutrients to your cells— all things that are essential to your young athlete. To maintain optimal hydration throughout the day, general recommendations suggest young athletes should drink ½ to 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight. In instances where your child may become dehydrated, sports drinks and diluted juice are great options for rehydration. Make sure your child is limiting their intake of these beverages as they are often high in sugar.  

3. Ensure Adequate Protein Intake

Protein is another important nutrient that young athletes must be eating enough of. Every cell in the human body contains protein— not to mention it helps to grow and repair cells, as well as aids in growth and development for children and teens. Some great protein-rich foods to ensure you are adding to your child’s diet include fish, lean meat and poultry, legumes, and dairy products. In most cases, young athletes will receive an adequate amount of protein through their food consumption and should not have to ingest anything supplemental, like protein shakes.

4. Choose Fat Sources Wisely

Fats are an important part of a balanced diet. Healthy fats help in the normal growth, development, and maintenance of body tissues. However, when dealing with young athletes, it is essential to place an emphasis on choosing fat sources wisely. The best fat sources for young athletes include nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil, and salmon. Unhealthy fats your child should avoid include processed meats, packaged desserts, cream, butter, and fried foods. 

5. Timing Is Everything

When it comes to proper nutrition in young athletes, you must keep in mind the time they are eating their meals and snacks. A meal three to four hours before a practice or game should include plenty of carbohydrates and protein but be lower in fat. If less than three hours before physical activity, young athletes should have a lighter meal or snack with easy-to-digest carbs. After physical activity, your child should eat within 30 minutes to help rebuild muscle and replenish energy. 

The providers at Wake Forest Pediatrics are committed to providing our patients with a medical home throughout all the stages of adolescence. If you have questions about your child’s health or more ways to best fuel your young athletes, call our Wake Forest office at 919-556-4779 or our Knightdale office at 919-266-5059 to make an appointment.

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