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The Right Nutrition for Young Athletes

The Right Nutrition for Young Athletes

When your kids play sports, help them eat right for top performance

by FamilyTime

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When your kids get involved in sports, part of your job is to make sure they eat right. This means teaching them about the importance of a balanced diet that includes plenty of whole foods and water.

If your young athlete is a teenager, it might be hard to control eating habits when they are out of the house. Nevertheless, serious athletes, regardless of their age, are generally focused on what they put in their bodies, knowing their overall health affects their performance. Their goal is peak performance.

Here are the building blocks for a healthful diet:

These are the body's best source of energy, but they are quickly spent. For the most efficient storage, carbohydrates should be replaced within two hours of working out.

Adequate carbs insure stamina and power. Complex carbohydrates are best. These include cereals, grains, oats, bread, legumes, and vegetables. Simple sugars in fruits, juices, and milk are beneficial, too, but should never be consumed in place of complex carbs.

Athletes need a little more protein than more sedentary folks. This means approximately 75 to 100 grams a day -- as opposed to about 65 grams a day -- or about 15 percent of the total diet. Teenagers who play sports may need even a little more protein. No one can build muscles and stamina without it.

The best sources of protein are meat, poultry, and fish. Others include eggs, peanut butter, cheese, nuts, milk, yogurt, and soy protein.

Staying hydrated is critical to top performance. Everyone should plenty of water. The old rule of thumb about eight glasses a day (for a total of 64 ounces) is a good one, although not a strict rule. Athletes generally consume even more. No one should wait until they are thirsty to drink non-carbonated, non-alcoholic, caffeine-free liquids.

Sweetened drinks and juices are okay some of the time, but in general, urge your kids to avoid them. The high sugar content of fruit juices can cause stomach cramps during or right after a  workout. Dilute them so that they are only about 50 percent their strength. Avoid soda.

Athletes should drink two cups of fluid two hours before working out, and then drink four to six ounces every 15 or 20 minutes during the workout.

Without enough fluid, athletes can cramp or suffer from heat exhaustion and even heat stroke.

Water is always the best choice for hydrating young bodies. During and after especially strenuous workouts and any lasting more than an hour, sports drinks are a good idea.

Good Habits
About a quarter of an athlete's daily calories should come from fat. Heart-healthy fats are best: unsaturated oils, lean meat and poultry, and low-fat dairy products.

Athletes in training — teenagers in particular — need more calories than at other times. Energy bars, granola bars, fresh fruit, smoothies and protein shakes are good, healthful snacks.

Eating from all the food groups is the best advice any athlete can follow. This means plenty of grains and vegetables, adequate protein, and several servings of fruit. Even a few sweets are beneficial — they contribute to good mental health!

Talk to your aspiring athletes about what they particularly like to eat and then plan to stock the refrigerator and cupboards with their healthy choices--and plenty of them. When kids play sports, they get hungry!

Chances are the entire family will benefit from a good-for-you diet of lean protein, fresh veggies and fruit, and legumes and whole grains. What a great way to eat!


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Tagged With: athletes, good health, whole foods, teenagers, sports

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