National Nutrition Month: Youth Athletes

Good morning!

I hope all is going well on your side, wherever you may be :)

Since March is National Nutrition Month I thought we could tackle the tough call of youth nutrition.

Our youth athletes nutrition needs differ from that of us old fogies, so we need to address some common concerns and mistakes as well as some thoughtful ways to help our young athletes thrive.

WATER.

Youth athletes (aged 8-18) dehydrate much faster than adults. In fact, they can dehydrate 40% faster than most adults in the same sport. So, it’s very important that we encourage our athletes to stay hydrated in a variety of ways. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Nix the sodas on game and practice days.
  • Pack a bottle of water for lunch.
  • Remind them to get a drink from the fountain EVERY time they pass it.
  • Pack or take water to them for the game and/or practice.
  • On very hot days or practices lasting longer than 60 minutes, make sure they have a beverage to replace electrolytes. I prefer G2 for my athletes, but regular Gatorade is fine and can be watered down to reduce the sugar.

As you can see, it’s not about the time spent practicing. The majority of youth athletes ENTER practice and games already dehydrated! If you have a young athlete in your home, the responsibility is YOURS to educate them on hydration and cut the sugar and sodas out to ensure proper mental focus and muscle repair during periods of training and playing. Encourage them to drink throughout the day and they will begin to feel and see a difference in practice.

Pre-Game/Practice Fuel

Unfortunately, here the schools will not allow student athletes to eat prior to practice or games. Since lunch times often fall before noon and practice can extend past 6, many athletes are under nourished during game time and practice. If the school doesn’t allow it, what can a parent or guardian do? Lucky for us, we have resources to help :)

Many companies such as Gatorade now offer pre-game solutions. Gatorade has a carbohydrate chew that is safe for youth athletes (12 and up) and provides fast digesting carbs to fill the glycogen stores in the liver and muscles. This is precisely where we get energy. Youth can run out of these stores faster than adults simply due to the growth process. The trick with these is to remind your student to drink LOTS of water with the chew, otherwise it can upset the stomach.

A more whole foods approach can be found in certain bars.

My favorite for my guys is the Come Ready Nutrition Bar.

Come Ready Bars

I’ve spoken about this bar before and truly believe in it. It has a very good nutritional profile with ingredients you recognize. The taste is far beyond other bars on the market AND if you get them from your local Costco (mine is in the Galleria area in Houston), you pay less than $1 a bar….that makes it easy to share with the whole team. Go YOU!

If Costco isn’t working for you or nowhere near you, I recommend a virtual trip to Bodybuilding.com

Now, if your athlete has an issue with gluten** you’ll be glad to know that Come Ready Nutrition now has gluten-free kids bars that can help to fuel your athlete without the fuss. Check out more on those bars HERE.

Timing is key, so I have my kids take a bar to school. Before practice they can usually eat 1/2 the bar while dressing and then they eat the other 1/2 after. During games, I take a bar and meet them at the bus. Just last week my daughter had a tennis match and the coach told her she couldn’t eat her bar on the bus, so my daughter ate it with lunch (they love the bars). SIDE NOTE: most coaches have English or Math degrees and know NOTHING about nutrition. You CAN take food to your child pre game or practice….that is YOUR right as a parent or guardian. Moving on…..that match my daughter had a very hard time focusing and her energy was all over the place. THIS week, my husband took a bar to the match and she ate it when she got off the bus….her doubles won and she had focus and energy to spare.

Hydration and nutrition play the largest role in energy output, yet we do nothing to equip our athletes for success. Give them a fighting chance to be the best they can be!

Remember, nutrition matters :)

 

**Another side note here, because as a professional I feel it must be said: IF you think your child has an issue with gluten, PLEASE have them take a simple blood test with their doctor. By preemptively pulling gluten from their diet because you read something on Google, you can actually end up doing more harm in the long run. I know gluten-free is a big deal right now…..but fat-free was big in the 80′s so please proceed with caution. Same goes for yourself. If you think you have an issue, ask for a test from your doc to confirm.

 

 

Comments

  1. Guilty! I have known and understood the need to hydrate for many years and still violate this principle. I guess it is our high humidity, because when I travel to low humidity areas, I drink a lot of water. Chapped lips and itchy eyes are constant reminders, but here? I guess I run low constantly. Thanks for the great reminder. Oh! I have an item for you the next time I see you.

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