While all children need a healthy balanced diet, good nutrition for young athletes is especially important.
According to Kids Health, children who participate in a lot of sport may have higher energy needs.
Kids and teens who are involved in all-day competitions or strenuous endurance sports (like rowing, cross-country running, or competitive swimming) that can involve 1½ to 2 hours or more of activity at a time, in particular, may need to consume more food to keep up with increased energy demands.
Apart from the quantity of food kids eat, young athletes need the right nutrition to help them perform well.
Nutrition for Young Athletes
1. Vitamins & Minerals
- Calcium helps to build strong bones. Dairy food is a great source of calcium as are leafy greens.
- Iron helps carry oxygen to muscles. Iron-rich foods include lean meat, fish, eggs, dried fruit and fortified cereals.
Protein provides sustained energy and is important for building and repairing muscles. Most children get enough protein through a balanced diet. It’s available from lean meat, nuts, legumes, poultry, beans and soy products. Too much protein is not good because it can lead to dehydration and calcium loss.
Carbs sometimes get a bad wrap but they’re a vital source of energy for young athletes. To power the performance of your young athlete look for whole grain carbs like:
- wholegrain toast
- brown rice
- wholegrain pasta
- fresh fruit and vegetables.
There is no need for ‘carb loading’ (eating lots of carbs) the night before a big sports event .
Water is involved in just about every chemical reaction in the body. Athletes lose water through sweat so it’s important they stay well-hydrated. And athletes who become dehydrated will lose energy, coordination, strength and can suffer heat-related illness. In most cases there is no need for sugary sports drinks, water is best.
There are extra nutritional considerations for young athletes on game day.
- When sport is in the morning, try to eat a good breakfast like wholegrain cereal, milk and fruit. If milk before sport upsets your child’s stomach, try wholegrain toast and a banana.
- If the sport is three hours or more after a meal, give your child plenty of carbs and a low fat protein to eat. Avoid too much fat as it takes longer to absorb so it might upset your young athlete’s stomach.
- For long competitions, bring plenty of snacks like fresh fruit, sandwiches, dried fruit or nuts.*
- Avoid lollies like jelly babies and snakes – they may give a short-term energy boost but it will quickly fade.
Post Game Recovery
Good nutrition for young athletes doesn’t stop at the final siren. Your child will rebuild energy reserves and muscles for 24 hours after a big sporting event.
- It is recommended your child eats a snack containing carbohydrates half an hour after sport then again after two hours.
- Make sure your child eat a a good meal of carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fats.
- Keep feeding your young athletes a good diet in the off-season so they’re in shape and ready to go.
*Nuts may not be allowed due to children with allergies.
Did you know Rory’s School Lunches can provide nutritious catering for school sports days and swimming carnivals? Contact us to find out more.