Youth Athletes: Sports Nutrition and Training

Happy Monday!

I’m getting back into the swing of things since the Summer is winding down (sad, but so true). Today, I’m going to start off August with info on Youth Athletes. Your kid (if you have contact with ANY young athletes, this will help you!) can benefit greatly from proper knowledge on training and nutrition as the sports seasons start to come into full swing. Some youth prefer seasonal sports such as football and basketball, while others can play soccer or baseball seemingly year round. If you know youth (I’ll be working mainly with ages 8-17 here) then the knowledge you will gain during this month will prove priceless in keeping them on top of their game and injury free. Let’s get started!

Parents and Caregivers:It’s NOT about you…

Harsh start, I know. Here’s the real deal though: your kids chosen sport has nothing to do with you. If they chose baseball because it was your idea and your hopes are hung on them going farther than you did and reliving your glory days….it will end badly. Usually resulting in pushing too far which can ultimately lead to life long injury. Our jobs as parents and caregivers are to encourage them and help them along their own path…not relive our own.

Nutrition is PARAMOUNT during the training season.

Developing solid nutritional habits is the most important step you can take during training. They can run faster than anybody on the planet, but poor nutrition will outrun even the fastest kid. This can be difficult to understand as most people equate nutrition with weight. Nutrition is way bigger than weight, it’s about preventing injury and creating an environment in which the body can fully thrive. For example: a water loss of 10% (this is before the thirsty feeling kicks in) can cause delayed reaction times and dizziness. This means that if your athlete starts the game slightly dehydrated they have a higher chance of injury due to overcompensation. Too few carbs in the diet can lead to the body pulling from muscle during a training session or game. When the body begins to eat its own muscle, we experience painful cramps that can slow us completely. The body hits survival mode and your kids could be the one hitting the grass in severe pain. Poor refueling after training or games will result in muscle loss and encourage more catabolic behaviour within the body. The result? Your athlete will slowly begin to think that they aren’t “meant” for the sport…refuel properly and they have the best chance for keeping the muscle their body is trying to establish and raising the bar on the game itself. All because you rock as a parent :)

Consider hiring a professional.

PROFESSIONAL is the key term here. Interview the person that may be working with your athlete. Don’t assume they are qualified just because they work at a gym or for a sports facility. I know a lot of completely unqualified people who work in those arenas. It’s a simple question: are you certified to work with youth athletes? Follow up to a yes: May I see that certification? Aside from that, feel free to ask for records of CPR certification, insurance and any other specialties. I believe in making it a point to ensure you are hiring somebody who knows what they are doing, especially when it comes to your kids.

Educate your athlete.

The number one thing I have learned in working with young athletes is that mom and dad can’t just fall back on the Nike slogan JUST DO IT. Kids are ripe for planting knowledge. Explain to them WHY they need to drink their water. Explain the benefits of potassium and sodium in the diet. Explain why that double meat fast “food” burger isn’t nearly good enough to refuel after training. Size your response to questions based on your athletes age. My kids started learning about nutrition very young and now, they get it. They understand why they need to pay attention to their bodies and they dig the fact that we don’t do fast “food”. Why? Because it’s NOT food! It’s processed junk and the body would rather not use it to fuel muscle, so it gets stored. We have burgers…but they’re the really good ones :)

Every week I’ll bring you a recipe for pre-training/pre-game. This week:

Protein and Carb Pancakes

Both of my young athletes (and myself!) LOVE these things. They are the proper ratio of proteins to carbs (60/30) with just a tiny bit of fat (10) since you don’t want to train or play on a fatty stomach. Serve these 30-60 minutes prior to training/gaming and your athlete will be ahead of the pack already.


2 whole eggs + 4 egg whites

1/2 cup quick cooking oats

2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour (you can use gluten-free if needed)

cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, etc for spice

OPTIONAL: 1 scoop whey protein, flavor of choice (I only recommend if your athlete is over 10 years old and pretty active)

milk of choice until consistency meets how your kids digs their pancakes (my kids like them pretty thick)

Mix together and cook in pan or on griddle until slightly golden brown.

Top with fruit (bananas rock!), natural honey or natural maple syrup.

The natural sugars will help with energy, but don’t overdo as too much sugar can upset the GI tract during vigorous activity.



Come back all month for more on keeping your athlete on the top of their game!


How to feed your youth

One of the biggest debates that resides in the minds of parents and caregivers usually has to do with the nutrition of those in their care. I mean, it stands to reason right? We spend a lot of our time feeding ourselves and our loved ones. With childhood obesity on the rise, nutrition is honestly the forefront of winning this ever-growing battle. As parents and caregivers we have the ability to set our children up for a lifetime of good health OR a lifetime of poor health. The choice is all ours.

So, let’s start with the basics. The first fact is that we buy the food in the house. I mean, I don’t send my 10-year-old to the store alone to pick up that weeks groceries. So, the first thing is to make sure that you are involved in planning the food for the week. Think ahead, just like you would if you’re planning a big road trip. Make sure that you have PLENTY of healthy snacks on hand at all times. Fresh fruits and vegetables are very appealing to young taste buds IF they are already washed and ready to go. I wash my fruits and veg after the store trip, then chop them up and put them into small containers. These containers are then placed in a prominent place in the fridge: EYE LEVEL. Yes, I know there are several drawers for this purpose, but when was the last time you dug into the drawer as opposed to hitting the chips in the pantry? Yeah, EYE LEVEL. The bright colors and freshness of the produce has been shown to create an immediately favorable response. That means if it’s available and ready to eat, kids will reach for it!

Another tip is to limit the amount of processed junk that is allowed to hang out in the house. It doesn’t mean that chips will never again cross the threshold of your kitchen, BUT it does mean that in the fight to better health, these foods are limited and no longer deserve permanent residence in your bread box. You and child deserve better food and better health, simple as that. So the chips, cookies and candies are bought only on special occasions. This will begin to treat the emotional dependency on food for comfort.

Potions are usually out of control for most of us. I know I can put away MASSIVE amounts of food if left to my own devices! When in doubt, use your hands as your guide. Protein will fit in the center palm, veggies take up 2 handfuls, grains are a closed fist, and fats are the tip of both thumbs. This holds true for your kids as well. Far too often we as parents give our children the same amount we eat and sometimes even more. We over feed to show love (totally different post!) and this causes a world of health issues. Stay within your childs portions and when they aren’t hungry, don’t force them to eat it all. In our home, we simply put leftover food away and if my daughter pops up “starving” an hour later, we reheat. Most times kids just may not be hungry at the time. If your child is chronically not hungry, look at the amount of snacks being eaten as well as the amount of movement between meals. Ever notice how little Timmy is famished when he gets home from school, but after a snack and some TV he’s not interested in a healthy dinner?

Last, don’t put your child on a “diet” of any kind. Children need to focus on the nutrients they get (adults too, but again: different post) and by placing children on any type of diet, we cut out essential nutrients that they need to grow. This will affect growth of healthy tissue as well as brain function. So, let the focus be on gaining more access to better nutrition and they will be set for life :)

Be sure to check back tomorrow for a fun family game that incorporates fitness into game night!

In good health,

Welcome to YOUTH Health, Fitness, and Safety Month!

I cannot get more excited about a topic than I am right now! Of all the certifications and specialties I hold, I think youth training and nutrition is by far my biggest passion. The reasons are really hard to number, but I’m sure it’s due to the fact that I have 2 wonderful children of my own :)

So, for the entire month of April we will be discussing the following issues surrounding the health of our youth:

  • Initiating movement and making exercise fun.
  • Family fitness.
  • Special nutrition needs of youth.
  • Hydration for the youth athlete.
  • Youth sports nutrition.
  • Injury prevention.
  • Foundations for health and Fitness.
  • Family meals and kid friendly recipes.
  • Kid Fit: Ideas for finding fitness at any age.
  • Different ages and stages: recognizing when and what to teach your children about health, fitness and nutrition.

Keep in mind that you do not have to be a parent to be a positive influence in the lives of children. You CAN help improve the health of the kids you come into contact with everyday!

Check back soon for more information on youth health, fitness and safety month!


A Great Place to Start

I think I was raised in a typical household. Both of my parents worked hard and there was little emphasis on eating healthy. I dare say we really were unaware of what healthy eating entailed. My mom was a chronic dieter with a terrible body image, so I began to associate certain foods as “diet” foods. In other words, I only ate my veggies when mom was on a diet :) Many of us were brought up this way as it was truly the norm in the 80′s and 90′s. You couldn’t flip through the television without infomercials of the latest fad diets being thrown at you. Well, this altered perception of “nutrition” has lead to an even trickier path. Many who were raised during this time (Gen X gimme a WHAT?!?!?) have developed severe issues with health and many are suffering from disease brought on by non-nutritional intake and obesity. Many have even turned to surgery and most bariatric surgeons are all too willing to accommodate and even go so far as to tell patients that surgery is “Their only hope”. That is a whole other post entirely…..

So, in the wake of the ill-health avalanche we find ourselves in, there are others suffering even worse fates: let’s not forget about the kids. I know I’ve said this before, but this IS the very first generation that is predicted to die BEFORE their parents. Do we grasp that reality? We tend to push it back in the back of our minds and allow Johnny that dessert since we really don’t feel like putting up a fight about it right now. Sad, really. So, how do we know that this generation is in trouble? Well, the CDC gathered up the data: children as young as 2 years old are now being diagnosed with heart disease, high blood pressure, clinical obesity, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and joint issues associated with poor nutrition and obesity. Now, before we continue I think it is important to address one issue that I see arise all the time: a lot of people think that if their child is “skinny”, or not holding extra weight, that they are in the clear. WRONG. Just because a kid has some weight on their bones doesn’t make them unhealthy, and a seemingly slender child is not always the healthiest. It’s not what you look like from the outside, it’s the lifestyle as a whole.

So, why all this information again? I find that due to a lack of nutritional understanding, many are unable to truly instill a healthy lifestyle into their children. In other words, you let your bad relationship with food seep into the next generation. Before you shake your head and say “not me” read through this:

  • Do your kids have their own “special foods” on hand regularly? Foods that you try to stay away from like candies and cookies?
  • Do you reward your kids with food? Good grades=dinner out
  • Do you bribe your kids with food? Good behavior=candy bar, chips, coke, etc.
  • Do you punish your kids using food? Bad behavior=no dessert
  • Do you allow your tastes affect your kids? Your kids don’t eat certain veggies because you don’t
  • Are family outings/trips enhanced with food?
  • Do you give in to fits for certain foods?
  • Do you label foods as “good” and “bad”?

These are some of the basics of poor nutrition leading to more serious eating and health problems. I have seen this situation so many times: a mom decides to take control of her own health and fitness. So, she begins a plan, and it can be a healthy eating plan, but continues to buy the “kids food” that does their growing bodies no favors. People tend to think that since children are “growing” we can allow for more diet “mistakes” since they have time to figure it out later. Let me ask you this: if you have struggled with food and weight issues your whole life, would it not seem better to equip your child for success rather than continue to shovel bad habits into their psyche so that they end up in the same boat as you IF not worse? THINK BEFORE YOU DO! If you wouldn’t eat it, why do you give it to your kids? Right now, we are being faced with the fact that children are not as resilient as we once thought. So, what can we do?

First, don’t panic! We can change the face of the future one small step at a time :) Pick 1 or 2 of the following to start doing each week and look for the changes:

  • Let your kids help plan the menu
  • If your kids can (usually 18 months and older) allow them to help prepare food. Even small children can wash veggies with some supervision. Yes, it means a little more work for you, but mounds of experience for them
  • Incorporate a new food once a week
  • Try a new way to prepare veggies once a week
  • Teach your children about nutrition! This will require you to learn a little about it too :)
  • Allow your kids to ask question. If you don’t know the answer, be honest and then find it through a trusted source
  • Never refer to foods as “good” or “bad”, it’s food and it’s all fuel
  • If you have dessert/sweets around the house regularly, let the kids help you find healthy alternatives
  • Instead of rewarding behavior with food, reward with activity
  • Let your kids pick a new recipe to try (children as young as 3 can do this)
  • Talk about how you feel about your new foods and realize that it takes time to evoke change

Prepare yourself for some bumps along the road. Everybody’s palate is different and it changes about every 7 years, plus preparing foods in different ways will change the taste as well. Also, experiment with different spices. Just remember that most little ones don’t care for really spicy foods (although my son has been enjoying jalapenos since he was 2!).

Here’s the honest truth….we can stand up and take a little extra time to help our children overcome the cycle that many of us have been sucked into or we can turn a blind eye and simply hope for the best. I for one have not been called to hope, I have been called to initiate change and give our youth a fighting chance. That chance starts with those that have the power: the power to buy the groceries!

Here’s to living the FIT life, with your Whole family,