5 top nutritional tips for your child athlete
A lot of effort goes into your child’s sporting programme! One area that can often get overlooked is nutrition. Here are some top nutritional tips to help your child improve their athletic performance.
Eat Three Meals Each Day
Meals provide the foundation of nutrients that the body needs throughout the day to perform, both on and off the field. About 36% of children and teenagers, respectively, skip breakfast. Almost 17% of children and young teens skip lunch.
When young athletes skip a meal, they put their body behind in the important nutrients that fuel performance, especially calories, carbohydrates, and protein. Plus, meal skippers may be more prone to overeat later and increase the likelihood of making unhealthy food choices. Make sure your athlete includes all three meals in his daily eating plan.
Eat Healthy Snacks (& Plan for Them)
Whether athletes have packed snacks in the gym bag, or eat a sit-down snack at home before practice, they should always have healthy fuel. Children and teens frequently snack on unhealthy foods, as they are often the easiest option.
Planning healthy snacks discourages the use of junk food, sweets, and other undesirable options during training and competition. Just like a race car needs premium fuel to perform, so does the young athlete who is training or competing in his sport.
Fuel the Recovery Phase
After intensive or extended exercise, the body’s muscles are broken down and tired. They need to recover. This can be accomplished with food, particularly food sources that contain a mixture of protein and carbohydrate.
Protein provides the amino acids needed to repair the muscles and promote muscle gain. Carbohydrates allow the reloading of glycogen (an energy source) in muscle, preparing them for future exercise.
Any combination of protein and carbohydrate can help muscles recover after exercise.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
When young athletes feel sluggish, are fatigued, or just don’t have the energy they usually count on, the issue ay be dehydration.
Many young athletes do not drink enough during practice sessions, or throughout the day. One reason is they are often distracted and need reminders to make sure they are getting plenty of fluids.
Most young athletes need about 2-3 litres of fluid each day, depending on exercise demands and climate. Young athletes can get fluids from beverages, fruit, soups, veggies and yogurt.
Sleep is critical to the young athlete’s growth, development and recovery. It’s the time when the body heals from the activities of the day and a time when growth hormone surges and allows growth to occur.
It is recommended that children aged 6 to 13 years get 9 to 11 hours of sleep per day, and teens aged 14 to 18 years get at least 8 to 10 hours of sleep.