Energize Young Athletes
Got a young athlete in the house?
I used to.
Four. Of various skills and abilities…and sports.
A volleyball player, two swimmers and a rower. One swimmer was a club team participant, swimming 2 hours each night, 5-6 nights each week. She went on to swim in college.
My other swimmer was like her older sibling volleyball player: They both stopped playing after high school.
The rower is at the high school level, which means for six days during the week he is practicing for 3 hours.
He is still growing, so I give special consideration to his nutrition needs for growth, as well as the calorie torch related to his sport.
5 Ways to Fuel and Energize Your Young Athlete
It’s important to make sure your young athlete is getting the good stuff, and enough of it. In other words, meals and snacks containing the nutrients that fuel his performance.
Try the following tips:
1. Stock your kitchen with good quality nutrition
Choose whole foods in their natural state, such as low fat dairy products, lean meats and other protein sources, vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy fats. These are the foods that should be a part of every healthy, growing child’s diet.
2. Use an athlete meal plan
Make sure your child gets three nutritious meals and no skipping!
A meal should include most food groups and at a minimum, at least three to four of the following food groups: a protein source, dairy, fruit, vegetable, healthy fats and/or a whole grain food source.
Offering protein with meals ensures amino acids are available to the young athlete’s body whenever it’s needed for muscle repair, strengthening and building.
Carbs from fruits, vegetables, dairy and whole grains provide your athlete’s exercising muscles with fuel to keep going.
3. Two snacks each day with a protein source
Meats, beans and bean dips, nuts and nut butters, cheeses, yogurt, milk or milk substitutes, and protein-rich whole grains such as quinoa are great sources of protein for the young athlete.
Unsweetened cereal and milk; yogurt, fresh fruit and nuts; whole-wheat toast and peanut butter are all examples of a healthy protein-rich snack for your school-age athlete.
Protein at snacks helps athletes manage their appetite, so they don’t get too hungry between meals.
4. Time the athlete diet plan
Kids perform best in all aspects of life when they eat regularly. Try to provide meals and snacks every 3-4 hours, and avoid sending your athlete to practice on an empty stomach.
Regular meals and snacks lend a predictability to the day and let your athlete regulate his eating. The opposite? Getting too hungry and overeating or not choosing the best options.
5. Young athletes don’t need to worry about counting calories or grams of protein
Let your athlete’s appetite lead the way. Take care not to fall into the trap of running through the drive-thru, hitting the convenience mart or snacking on too many processed foods.
If so, your athlete may overshoot the balance of energy in versus energy out.
With an athlete meal plan, it’s easy to assure your young athlete gets enough nutrition to cover all his needs.
The benefits of this are worth it — keeping your young athlete healthy, growing and energized for performance anywhere — on the court or in the pool.
How do you make sure your athlete is getting enough nutrition?
Need More Resources on Sports Nutrition for Young Athletes?
Check out my new sports nutrition program Eat Like a Champion! (Click on the photo)
Or check out my book, Eat Like a Champion!