Young athletes have very unique demands – school, sports, and training.
There is a way to improve each of those 3 things – FUEL the body with proper nutrition!
Here’s some more specific nutrition tips for Young Athletes…
Carbohydrates should be the staple of a athletes diet. The key is to focus on quality. There is a huge difference between white bread and whole grain, high fiber bread; a sugar coated cereal and oatmeal; French fries vs. sweet potatoes. Focus on the quality of the carbohydrates.
For example, definitely eat breakfast, but try a whole grain based cereal with some fresh fruit for the nutrients and fiber. Something like oatmeal instead of Fruit Loops or Cocoa Pebbles.
Sandwiches should be made with whole grain bread, rather than white. Snacks can be whole grain crackers with peanut butter, fruit or veggie sticks with peanut butter, etc. The list can go on.
The focus of carbohydrates should always be on foods that provide a few grams of fiber per serving (exception is milk and yogurt, which are very healthy and carbohydrate based, but provide little, if any fiber).
Fruit and vegetables are also critical for a high performance athlete. Kids often shy away from them and parents don’t always push them. However, research has suggested it can take as many as one dozen times to determine if a child likes a particular food. The key for a parent is to introduce kids to as many of these nutrient dense, colorful foods as possible!
Of course protein plays a very important role! One important message is to make sure you always focus on food first – not protein supplements. High quality protein sources include:
- Fish and other seafood
- Low or non fat milk or yogurt
- Chicken and turkey breast
- Lean red meat
- Mixed nuts
- Natural peanut butter
Should young athletes take a protein supplement?
The better question is:
- Do they need a protein supplement? No.
- Will it make them into the next college or pro athlete? Of course not!
- Can it be beneficial and a healthier option than many of the alternative high sugar, high fat foods marketed directly towards children? Absolutely!
But food first as whole foods provide more nutrients than any supplement does or ever will be able to provide.
Fat is another crucial nutrient for athletes. The key, once again, is to focus on quality. Fat also provides a lot of calories, which can be important for very active, young athletes who need more calories than most to develop healthy, strong bodies.
Here are a few fats to choose:
- Whole eggs
- Olive oil
- Raw mixed nuts
- Natural peanut butter
- Avocados and more
There you have it. Nutrition basics.
Feed your body. It’s a machine. To be the best player, you need to train and eat like the best athlete in the world.