Guiding Youth Athletes: Nutrition makes a difference
. The daily intake for every youth athlete should provide sufficient energy needed for growth and development, optimal functioning and all activities.
. Inadequate carbohydrate intake leads to low energy levels, fatigue and impaired performance.
. Based on the sport, the goal of performance nutrition is to eat carbohydrates, protein, and fats in ideal amounts and at proper times to allow the youth athlete to perform at a high level and maintain normal growth and development patterns.
Key carbohydrate guideline are listed here:
. Carbohydrates should make up approximately 60 percent of a child's diet.
. Starches and grains ( bread, pasta, rice potatoes, etc) should be eaten at each major meal throughout the day to provide a lasting energy source. Major meals should be eaten three to four hours apart.
. Carbohydrates such as fruits, energy bars/shakes, and sports drinks are ideal for rapid fueling before activity and immediately after exercise to optimize recovery.
. Depending on the sport, the growing athlete should consume 3 to 4.5 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight per day.
The daily calorie intake for every youth athlete should provide sufficient energy needed for growth and development, optimal functioning and all activities. Just as a high performance car uses a special blend of gasoline to achieve peak performance, athletes also require the proper mixture of fuel ( carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) to perform optimally. Therefore, the "blend" of fuel and timing of meals and snacks are critical to maximizing performance potential. Daily calorie requirements will be different for each athlete.
Fitness Nutrition Specialist.