Here are some simple nutrition guidelines for your active child.
Kids need carbs.
Some adults limit their own carbohydrate intake as a way to watch their waistline, but it’s important for active kids to get an adequate amount.
Carbs fuel your athlete by providing the glucose used for energy. Low glucose produces diminished drive and poor performance. Glucose also fuels the brain, so mental clarity and focus falters with low glucose.
Research shows that 45-65% of a young athlete’s total daily calories should come from carbs. Good sources of carbs include: whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, cereal, brown rice, fruits and vegetables.
Protein builds muscle.
Protein is necessary to build and repair muscles. This is especially important for children active in sports, since exercising can damage muscle fibers.
Experts say children’s daily diets should be comprised of 10-30% protein. Just be careful since too much protein can cause dehydration and calcium loss.
Good sources of protein include: fish, skinless chicken, lean meat, eggs, peanut butter, beans, milk and yogurt.
Fat isn’t bad.
Sports kids need some fat daily. In fact, roughly 25-35% of their total daily calories should consist of fat. However, not all fats are created equal.
Children should steer clear of unhealthy fats called trans fats and saturated fats. These are found in things like fast food, high-fat meat, butter, candy, potato chips and bakery items. Instead, kids should eat healthy fats such as in fish, nuts, seeds, olive or canola oil.
Hydration helps performance.
It’s very important for athletes to stay hydrated. Dehydration causes a lack of energy and increases risk of heat illness. Water helps regulate your child’s body temperature and also replaces the water lost from sweating.
Children shouldn’t just wait for game day to stay hydrated. Drinking at least 8 glasses of water each day should become a habit for every child. Young athletes need even more.
Research shows that performance declines with as little as 2-3% decrease in body weight from sweating.
If your child is exercising for less than an hour, drinking plain water is the best choice. While sports drinks can be beneficial to replace lost sodium and potassium, they’re also very sugary. It’s best to leave them for recovery after an intense competition lasting more than an hour.
Providing proper nutrition and hydration for your sports kid gives them the best chance to stay healthy and injury free while competing at their best.