Nutrition For Your Young Athlete
Nutrition for Your Young Athlete
Nutrition is extremely important for any young person,
especially an athletic one, and even more so during the
developmental years of their life. Whether your child is
involved in soccer or football, gymnastics or swimming or
Little League, he or she needs a good nutritive balance in
order to be successful in any endeavor. It cannot be
stressed enough that anorexia and bulimia, chronic
malnutrition, are absolutely devastating not only to an
athlete's career, but also to overall health and
well-being. You should always watch for decreased eating
in your child, no matter how robust and healthy they may
Interestingly enough, very few scientific studies on the
nutrition of child athletes have been published. You don't
really need to be a scientist (or an alchemist) to create a
healthy menu for your active youth, though. All you need
is a little bit of creativity, and, of course, the facts
about different kinds of foods. As is dictated by common
sense, it's necessary for kids who are active to consume
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Sometimes, they must take in several hundred - or even a
thousand - healthy calories more than the average child,
depending upon their age and upon the intensity of the
sport they're participating in.
So what types of food should you give your gymnast' I'll
help you out.
Everyday nutrition calls for a healthy balance of protein,
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caloric intake for a child athlete is carbohydrates.
Without carbohydrates, the body cannot readily replenish
its stores of energy in the muscles and in the liver.
Simple carbohydrates, like those found in most candies and
chocolates, are usually not enough: they are used up too
quickly and if eaten before competing can cause changes in
blood pressure (of course, you can splurge every once in a
while -- just not constantly).
Pasta, bread, and rice -- in other words, foods from grain
-- are best overall for carbohydrate intake. Fruits and
vegetables are excellent sources of carbs and of vitamins
and minerals. Dairy products are especially important for
building strong bones and teeth. Meat -- or meat substitute
-- is needed for protein intake.
Did you know that if you know...
if you put beans and rice together, they create a perfect
Most plants don't produce all of the proteins we as human
beings need to survive -- but if they are eaten at the same
time, they give you all the protein you need. That means
you can have refried beans with rice, or meatless chili
with rice, or a variety of other combinations, if indeed
you don't want to eat beef, chicken, pork, or other animal
Before an Event
Approximately two to three hours before your child is to
participate in an event, or indeed in training, you should
have them eat a light meal filled with carbohydrates: a
bowl of spaghetti, a sandwich with lettuce and a glass of
fruit juice, carrot sticks and a piece of cheese, or
something else to their taste. It's always advisable to
have them exert themselves on a slightly empty stomach,
because they may experience cramping or fatigue otherwise.
During an Event
During an event or practice, it is vitally important that
your athlete remain hydrated. When he or she sweats
profusely, water is lost to the atmosphere via evaporation.
A lot of vapor is also lost through deep breathing.
This is the body's natural cooling system. It needs to be
replenished, just like the cooling elements in your air
conditioner. Every twenty to thirty minutes during
strenuous exercise, your child should drink six to eight
ounces of water. A sports drink is acceptable sometimes,
so long as it has few carbohydrates (under 15-20 grams is
best). Even diluted fruit juice (one part water to one
part juice) will work well.
Keep in mind that dehydration is a very serious problem with
athletes -- and when they begin to feel thirsty, it may
already be too late. Whether or not they are thirsty, you
should keep them hydrated with water, juice, or sports
After an Event
After an event, it's a good idea to let your child have
something full of carbohydrates to eat - just like the
pre-game meal. This will replenish their energy stores and
ease their recovery time.
With all of this, good luck!
By Murray Hughes
Gymnastics Secrets Revealed
'The book EVERY gymnastics parent should read'
About the Author
If your child is a gymnast and you enjoyed this article, you
will definitely enjoy reading the zero cost, 5-day course
Gymnastics Tips Course written especially for gymnastics
parents by a gymnastics parent.