The type of food a young athlete eats can affect how well and how long he or she can compete.
Creating a nutrition plan
Proteins in food are broken down into essential amino acids, which are used to repair and build muscles that are broken down during exercise. Good sources of protein include:
- Chicken breast
- Nuts or seeds
Carbohydrates make glucose, which is essential for energy. Glucose can be used immediately or stored. Good sources of carbohydrates include:
Healthy fats help store energy in the body and help vitamins move through the bloodstream. Good sources of healthy fats include:
- Vegetable oils
It’s important to drink water or sports drinks like Gatorade before, during and after a game or practice. If a young athlete chooses to hydrate using a sports drink, it shouldn’t be diluted because this causes it to have the wrong concentration of electrolytes.
To determine how much a young athlete should drink, divide his weight in half. That is how many ounces of fluids he should drink during the day. For example, a 120-pound athlete should drink 60 ounces of fluid.
Whole foods are the best and most reliable supplement for a young athlete. However, many athletes competing at the elite levels may feel the need to take additional supplements, like vitamins and powders, to speed up recovery and build muscle. Consult a doctor or registered dietitian who works with athletes before adding supplements.
Call the Children’s Sports Medicine Program at 404-785-KIDS (5437) for more information about nutrition and sports.