Home > Nutrition & Health > Sport Specific Nutrition

Sport Specific Nutrition

By: Elizabeth Grace - Updated: 4 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
Sports Nutrition For Kids Energy Drinks

Kids’ growing bodies need healthy food to fuel them and when kids embark on athletic endeavors, their nutritional needs may change a bit. The demand for fuel can rise dramatically, depending on the activities, so parents need to be sure that their kids’ diets are keeping up with them.

“Energy Drinks” and other Nutrition Fads

Sports drinks and other specialty foods and snacks are marketed on the notion that they will boost athletic performance. Student athletes may be tempted to buy into the hype and believe that they need to purchase these items in order to perform at their best, but in reality, a well balanced diet rich in nutrients is a better choice. Most active kids need only to eat well and stay hydrated for optimal performance, while those who are engaging in endurance or particularly strenuous spots may need additional calories in order to keep up with the demands that they are putting on their bodies. Fortunately, if kids are not indulging in empty calories or diets loaded with sugary foods that have their blood sugar levels fluctuating wildly, most will be able to listen to their bodies’ hunger cues in order to gauge the amount of food that they need.

A Balanced Diet for Student Athletes

A healthy diet for all kids should be varied so that they get a wide range of nutrients. Kids who are active may feel unable to perform at their best if they are not getting adequate amounts of healthy foods, so parents should strive to see that their kids eat an assortment of different foods throughout the day. Typically, kids snack between meals, which is not only acceptable, but recommended, as long as the snacks are chosen with the same level of care given to meals. Components of a healthy diet include:

  • Vitamins and Minerals: Providing kids with a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, especially those that are brightly colored, will help assure that they get adequate vitamins and minerals. Spinach, peppers, squash, and carrots are good choices, and when teamed with a nice assortment of fruits such as blueberries, strawberries, bananas, and citrus fruits, it makes it easy for kids to fill up on good-for-them foods. Calcium and iron are important minerals for active, growing kids, so encouraging the consumption of milk, yoghurt, cheese, and green, leafy veggies for calcium and lean red meat, chicken, tuna, and whole, fortified grains for iron will help kids to stay energised throughout their activities.
  • Protein: In order to build muscle, there must be adequate protein in a child’s diet. Protein can be found in meat, eggs, poultry, nuts and nut butters, and in soy products. While kids should have some protein in each of their meals, more is not necessarily better. Too much protein can lead to calcium depletion, but when serving sizes are kept in check, protein is great for sports-minded kids.
  • Carbohydrates: Popular diets of the past several years have given carbohydrates a bad name, but when chosen wisely, carbs provide fuel for the body. Processed carbohydrates such as those found in white bread, white rice, or sugar are not nutritionally sound, but brown rice and whole grain breads, cereals, and pastas are great for giving kids the energy that they need to do well in sports. As with all things, moderation is key – there is no need to “carb up” in advance of a practice or game.

Hydration is Important!

Even mild dehydration can have kids stalling out during a game, so parents and coaches need to encourage kids to stay properly hydrated before, during, and after active play. The recommendation is that kids drink about 240 milliliters of water every 20-30 minutes during activity. Of course, this amount may need to be adjusted up in hot weather or during particularly rigorous workouts. While water is the best choice, some kids object to it so a splash of fruit juice may be added to a large glass of water if it helps kids to drink more.

Dieting for Sports

Some coaches encourage student athletes to diet in order to gain or lose weight, but this is not a healthy practice. Healthy children and teens should not be put on diets for the purpose of adjusting their weights, especially when the goal is to fit a standard for a specific sport, rather than simply managing their weight for optimal health. If a child is truly under or overweight, a consultation with a doctor and/or nutritionist can work with kids and their parents to formulate plans that incorporate healthy eating (not deprivation) and sufficient exercise, helping kids to maintain healthy weights and fitness levels. Coaching staff are typically not qualified to give medical advice and should refrain from doing so.

Game Day Recommendations

On the day of a big game, some kids believe that they should load up on carbohydrates in order to boost energy, while others prefer to skip a meal, hoping that a lighter feeling will increase their speed and agility. In truth, neither is a good practice. Kids should eat a healthy, low-fat meal consisting of carbohydrates and protein, at least two hours before game time. Eating right before activity can decrease energy levels since the body is busy trying to digest the meal, but skipping meals can leave kids feeling depleted, which is sure to have a negative impact on their playing ability (and health). Choosing healthful foods a few hours before a big game and then supplementing with small snacks is the best plan, with a nutritionally packed meal planned for after the game in order to replenish the body’s lost nutrients. And of course, don’t forget that water bottle!

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word: