Fuel Your Athlete
We are now full into the spring sport season with summer right around the corner. Athletes are busily applying their craft in the field while parents are coordinating carpool schedules to practice, buying the appropriate equipment and tending to injuries caused by competitive play. This does not leave a lot of time for either party to focus on two of the most important aspects of competitive sport: nutrition and hydration.
Kids who eat healthy, well balanced meals and snacks will get the nutrients needed to excel in their respective sport. Kids and teens who are involved in all day competitions or strenuous endurance sports that can involve 1.5-2 hours or more of activity at a time may need to consume more food to keep up with their increased energy demands. To get the most out of their athletic ability, children should be eating healthy foods and drinking plenty of fluids hours before practice or competition begins. Children who are growing need an added boost of energy to stay alert throughout their day at school in order to play a sport after school. Here are a few tips for feeding and hydrating your young athlete:
Teach your child about meal timing.
Do not let your children go to school without having breakfast and encourage them to have another light snack at their first recess. Emphasize the importance of your child’s role in ensuring that they are physically prepared to participate in sport. Have your child eat a healthy lunch followed by a snack 45 minutes before they engage in their post school training session or competition. By engaging your child in the process you will help them understand the benefits of this meal planning program.
Shop for a balance of nutritious food sources.
A healthy lunch should consist of a source of protein which will help your child rebuild muscles used during competition or training. Protein rich foods include lean meats, dairy, nuts and beans. Vitamins and minerals such as calcium and iron will help fortify bones to protect against breaks and stress fractures. Dried fruit, eggs, fish and leafy greens are all great sources of iron.
Have your child pack a water bottle.
Hydration is an important predictor of sports performance. Children and youth typically need 8-12 ounces of water 5-7 times per day, or to drink their body weight in ounces. Packing a water bottle in your child’s gear will encourage them to sip it throughout the day. If your child is too small to carry a water bottle, make it a rule of thumb that they always drink when passing a water fountain.
Athlete nutrition is of the utmost importance for the growth and development of your child’s skills. By engaging your child in the benefits of nutrition, it will be a win-win for everyone.
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