Sports and Nutrition
Written by Kierstin Ullom, APRN
Want to give your young athlete an edge on the competition? Good nutrition is the key to support the ongoing growth and development of your athlete.
Where to start? Whole, healthy, nutrient-dense foods!
- Fruits and veggies
- Provide essential carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to combat damage from intense training and strengthen the body’s defenses.
- Strive for 5 servings a day.
- Choose a wide variety of colors.
- Get iron from leafy greens, calcium from spinach and broccoli.
- Cook it, keep it raw, dip it, blend it, hide it, sneak it in!
- These are the main sources of energy for athletes.
- Provide glucose to be stored in muscles and liver, source of quick and available energy during training and competition.
- Should make up 45-65% of the total calories.
- CHOOSE WHOLE GRAINS- Whole grain breads, pastas, brown rice, baked white or sweet potatoes, whole grain wraps, high fiber/non-sugary cereals, oatmeal, quinoa, whole grain crackers.
- Avoid white bread, processed baked goods, processed snacks, chips.
- Carbs from fruits, veggies, and dairy products work as well.
- Used by the body for recovery, tissue repair, muscle building, energy for extended workouts/competition.
- Should make up 10-30% of total calories.
- Choose lean meats like chicken, turkey, fish, lean beef and pork.
- Eggs, nuts, beans, and dairy products work too.
- A word about nut butters, which are great if chosen correctly – Choose NATURAL nut butters, meaning the ingredients are nuts and maybe salt. No added sugar or unhealthy fats (palm oil).
- Enable the body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K), long-term energy source, hormone regulation.
- Should make up 25% of total calories.
- Limit saturated fat, avoid trans-fat.
- Choose healthy fats from nuts, nut butters, olive or canola oil, avocado, lean meats.
- Fats from chips, fried foods, processed baked goods are a no go!
Secondly, taking in enough calories to support growth, body processes/functions/repair, AND activity is vital! Young athletes need healthy calories: breakfast, lunch, dinner, pre-workout/post-workout snacks. If athletes do not consume enough calories, this leads to breakdown of body processes, inability to repair tissues, loss of muscle mass, injury, fatigue, poor performance. Boys should strive for 2500-3000 calories per day, girls 2200-2700. This will vary with intensity/length of exercise and stage of growth.
Lastly, hydration! Just a 2% drop in hydration can begin to negatively affect athletic performance. Hydration is an on-going, every day activity. Drinking water just before competition cannot adequately hydrate a working body. Drink water all day, every day. Take a water bottle to school, drink it, refill it, drink some more! Sports drinks are great for replacing electrolytes and fluids lost during long, sweaty competitions or workouts. But keep in mind the extra sugar, salt, and empty calories! Most athletes don’t need sports drinks on a daily basis.
Kierstin Ullom, APRN, has been with Northeast Cincinnati Pediatrics since 2016. She sees patients Monday, Tuesday and Friday in our Mason office.