Nutrition for the young athlete

You've got a growing athlete on your hands! Street hockey, backyard soccer, recreational basketball, little league, and swim team ... the opportunities to participate in sports with qualified and supportive leadership are wonderful these days. From the day they are born children delight in their bodies and what they can do. They are proud of their strength and speed, and joyous when they can run with abandon. They race each other across the yard, climb trees, and swing from ropes into the lake.

Once your little athlete starts school she'll have all kinds of chances to join more organized sports. There is a dramatic increased interest in sports, even amongst the younger children. This interest in athletic performance is wonderful to their health, provided that the intensity of involvement is not excessive. The focus needs to stay on skill development and pleasure rather than winning. Most of us are natural competitors. The point is to make the competition your own self. How can I run a little faster?, is the question not How can I run faster than Jamie? (that motivation will come in plenty of time). Instilling now a sense of balance will help them go into those teenage years with a better perspective on winning and losing, and with a better sense of themselves as an athlete.

Older athletes have often concocted bazaar diets in hopes that a certain magic potion will give them the edge they need to win. But even though the Greek athletes had training diets, the science of sports nutrition is embryonic. There is no foundation to support such contrived diets that include protein powders or megadoses of vitamins. Studies on the nutritional needs of the child athlete are almost non-existent.

 

So if no studies exist, how do you know which foods are best? Common sense, basic nutrition knowledge, and few insights are all you need. Just as for anyone else, a varied diet that follows the food pyramid recommendations is best. For the hard playing, growing young athlete good nutrition is a key component of athletic performance.

Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are the cornerstone of the athletes diet.Active kids need more calories than their sedentary, TV gazing counterparts. The best way to get those extra calories is in the form of carbohydrates, or "carbs" as they are affectionately referred to by the pros. Carbohydrate is important in exercise because it provides fuel for the body, and is the fuel the body prefers. Complex carbohydrates also provide many important B vitamins that are needed to help put that energy to use. Carbs a few hours before practice will help supply energy needed during the event, and some carbohydrates eaten soon after will help replenish the muscles with fuel. Select from the following for some energy boosting carbs: bagels, cereals, pancakes, pasta, oranges, bananas, apples, yogurt, graham crackers, popcorn, pretzels, pears, and fruit juices.

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