Sports and Kids: A Healthy Diet for Your Young Athlete

You've got a growing athlete on your hands! With Little League, soccer, basketball and the swim team and more, the opportunities to participate in sports with qualified and supportive leadership are wonderful.

Athletes have often concocted bizarre diets in hopes that they will give them the edge they need to win. But the science of sports nutrition is in its infancy -- and studies on the nutritional needs of the young athlete are almost non-existent.

So if no research exist, how do you know which foods are best for your young athlete? Common sense, basic nutrition knowledge and a few insights are all you need. For the hard playing, growing young athlete good nutrition is a key component of athletic performance. A balanced diet is the most important nutrition-related factor in your child's athletic performance. It's your job, as parent, to keep track of that component.

For an athletic competition, your child needs a good supply of energy. A meal relatively high in carbohydrates is the best choice. Keep the levels of fat and protein low. Since they take longer to digest, they can cause nausea or even vomiting.

It is best to exercise on a relatively empty stomach. Eat no sooner than two hours before competition. Digestion requires routing the blood supply to the digestive tract to pick up nutrients. By the time exercise begins, the blood should be freed of that task so it can focus on the more immediate job of carrying oxygen-rich blood to exercising muscles. The energy supplied to, and stored in, muscles for use during exercise was put there hours or days earlier. And, don't forget the fluids!

Important Note: Simple sugars like candy or soda eaten just prior to an event may cause an interfering swing in blood sugar levels that could adversely affect your child's performance without providing the anticipated quick energy boost.

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