Active Athlete

Nutrition is important part of the extra attention that young athletes need for several reasons:

  • Sports increase energy, nutrient and fluid demands on children and teens.
  • They need to have the energy and stamina to play and stay healthy.
  • The energy and protein needs depend on the level and type of physical activity they engage in, as well as their physical development.
  • The timing and content of meals before and after participation can help or hinder players' health on and off the field.
  • Sports and energy drinks are not well understood by those who use them.

Athletes do need

  • Extra protein, even when restricting calories. Too much, however, can lead to dehydration or weight gain.
  • Increased sugar (glucose) for heavy training, long contests and to refuel afterwards.
  • Healthy fats (avoiding saturated fats, trans fat, and fried foods).
  • Adequate calcium, iron, zinc, folate and vitamin B6. Without enough of these in particular, athletes can develop fatigue, muscle soreness, increased injury, decreased metabolism and slower recovery from injury.
  • Adequate hydration during and after events and practice.

But families and coaches must be aware that with more and more children participating in sports, the competition has increased. And those trying to become or remain elite athletes, sometimes seek an advantage so that they can rise to the next level of competition.

  • Nutrition is often seen as a way to improve performance.
  • In some sports, weight classes lead to efforts to control or manipulate weight.
  • Dietary supplements often carry claims that appeal to young athletes.
  • Medications used to enhance performance or control weight may impact the child or teen's nutrition.