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Sports nutrition can help young athletes step up their game

Playing sports requires a lot of preparation. There is of course all the physical training involved, loads of equipment, learning the rules of the game … but one area that can get overlooked is nutrition.

Food is, after all, fuel for your body, and it can have a huge effect on your performance. It’s not just whether you eat too much or too little, it’s also what you are eating that matters. Athletes should ask themselves if they are truly making healthy choices or just opting for more convenient grab-and-go items that often are full of sugar, salt and other ingredients that can hinder performance.

Guide to nutrition

  • Food: Look for whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and lean meats or alternative protein sources (nuts, peanut butter, beans, etc.) throughout your day. If you are going to have a long practice or game, plan to have a snack or meal that includes a carbohydrate source (grains/fruits/dairy) and a protein source beforehand.
  • Drinks: Have a water bottle on hand throughout your day and refill it at least once. Go ahead and take drinks during your activity as well, but don’t overdo it. Water is the best choice, but sports drinks can be used occasionally as well. It’s also important to drink plenty of water after your game/activity to replenish your body. Stay away from soda.
  • Sleep: All that muscle exertion is going to require some rest, so it’s important to get enough sleep so that your body can recover from all the energy it is using. Aim for eight hours every night, and avoid napping if you feel it limits your ability to sleep at bedtime.

Whether the goal is weight management, injury recovery, increased endurance or just improved overall health, nutrition can play a huge part in meeting it. As a dietitian, I have worked with many young athletes and their family to answer questions and develop a plan that can help take their game to a whole new level!