Nutrition for the Young Athlete
Proper nutrition helps improve overall health and athletic performance and is a major factor in preventing sports-related injuries.
By eating appropriate foods, and the right amount of foods, young athletes can ensure they are fueling their bodies adequately and are properly fortified to withstand the challenges of advanced or extensive athletic activity. Eating correctly also provides the additional nutrients required to heal muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments and other tissues that may be stressed during training or performance.
At Hurley Medical Center, our pediatricians and orthopedic surgeons can refer you to nutritionists and other consultants who can help you develop and implement an effective eating plan. The following recommendations are not comprehensive but are a good place to start.
The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition offers the following guidelines for eating before, during and after exercising:
- Eat or drink some high-carbohydrate foods such as bananas, bagels or fruit juices. These foods are broken down quickly and provide glucose to the muscles.
- The timing of this meal depends on your preference for eating before exercise, but researchers have found that eating one to four hours before exercise helps keep plenty of blood glucose available for working muscles.
- It is also critical to drink plenty of cool water before exercise to keep muscles hydrated.
- Perspiration and exertion deplete the body of fluids necessary for an optimal performance and lead to dehydration. It is important to drink plenty of cool water, at least a half a cup of water every 20 minutes of exercise. Adding a teaspoon of sugar, a little fruit juice or a small amount of powdered drink mix flavors plain water and may encourage fluid intake.
- Usually there is no need to worry about replacing carbohydrates unless the exercise lasts over 90 minutes and is hard and continuous. When this happens, drinking a sports drink or other beverage with some sugar in it will add fuel and water to the muscles being exercised.
- Make a homemade sports drink by mixing no more than 4 teaspoon of sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and some flavoring (like a teaspoon of lemon juice) in 8 ounces of water.
- If the exercise was strenuous and lasted a long time, glycogen stores may need refueling. Consuming foods and beverages high in carbohydrates right after exercise will replenish glycogen stores if they are low after exercising.
- No matter the intensity of the exercise, it's important to drink plenty of water and eat a nutritious, balanced meal that has lots of carbohydrate rich foods such as grains, pastas, potatoes, vegetables and fruits.
For more information on nutrition guidelines, visit http://www.fitness.gov.