Sunday, October 18, 2009

Nutrition and The Young Athlete

With the kids all engaged in numerous activities and with J playing competitively for two sports, I have took it upon myself to research on the proper nutritional requirement for a young athlete.

Here are some guidelines that I found to be useful before, during and after training:
} Make sure kids arrive to practice well-fed. They should eat a meal that contains sufficient amounts of carbohydrates, 1-2 hours before the practice session or competition.
} During training, kids should be encouraged to take "water breaks" every 20-30 minutes even when the young athletes do not feel thirsty. Research studies have shown that providing a cooled and flavored beverage produces greater fluid consumption among children and helps prevent dehydration.

However, it is in my belief that while sports energy drinks taste good, the best source of hydration is still good old fashioned water. As stated here, kids do not need the additional sugar in their tiny active bodies.

I have found a natural alternative by making my own sports drink. I simply mix a few tablespoons of honey and a pinch of salt in a cup of warm water. Let the mixture dissolve well, and mix it with cold water and a couple handful of ice cubes. You can also follow the recipes here and here.

As you might expect, since honey is sweeter than table sugar, it also has more calories as well -- 22 per teaspoon compared to granulated sugar's 16 per teaspoon. However, it is healthier in that it is a natural form of sweetener; thus there are trivial amounts of minerals and vitamins in the bee product while white sugar has none.

} Let the kids eat carbohydrate and protein within the first 30 minutes after practice. Replacing carbohydrates that were used during training within 30 minutes is essential for repairing muscle tissue and preparing for the next athletic training period. This is perhaps the most important time to eat to maximize body recovery!

Just the other week, I made granola bars for my kids to enjoy.

It is relatively easy to make and is also nutritionally great just about any time of the day. The rolled oats provide an excellent source of fiber and are a good source of complex carbohydrates. The raisins, dried blueberries and dried cherries are a good energy source, and the almond, sunflower nuts, and wheatgerm provide protein. The flax seeds are a good source of omega3.

High-carbohydrate, moderate-protein, low-fat, and moderate-fiber. Granola offers more bang for the buck, so to speak.