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Key Nutrients Young Athletes Need

By Tiffany Glenn, M.S., R.D.,L.D. Registered Dietitian

Do you have a young athlete in the family?  Give them the leg up on the competition with the proper fuel.

Young athletes need a balance of key nutrients:

Carbohydrates are the main energy source for muscles.  About 50-60 percent of the athlete’s calories should come from this group.  Complex carbohydrates provide a longer lasting type of energy (rice, potatoes, bread, pasta).  Simple carbohydrates are digested and absorbed quickly and are sources of immediate fuel (fruit, juice, cookies, candy).  However, the energy in simple carbohydrates doesn’t last long and many don’t provide much nutritional value.

Protein is essential for maintaining and building muscle mass.  About 15-20 percent of the athlete’s calories should come from protein.  Protein is mainly found in meats, poultry, dairy products, beans and nuts.

Fat is needed for certain vitamins and provides long lasting fuel.  Fat should be 20-30 percent of the calories.  Contrary to what many may think, fat is not a dietary evil.  Athletes who eat a low fat diet often don’t get enough calories to support growth and they always feel hungry.  Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are the best choices.  Avoid fatty meats butter, creamy sauces, fried foods, whole milk, etc.

Water is needed to prevent dehydration.  On average, drink 16 ounces of water before an event.  Drink 5-10 ounces every 15-20 minutes during exercise.  If you exercise for more than an hour, use a sports beverage.

Calories needed for each child is based on the sport.  For example, a distance runner will require more calories than a volleyball player.  It is imperative that the child receive enough calories to sustain growth.

If you want to know more, read the book Fuel for Young Athletes by Ann Litt, M.S., R.D.



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By Tiffany Glenn, M.S., R.D.,L.D. Registered Dietitian
Categories:  Kid's Health & Safety

About the Author

Tiffany Glenn, M.S., R.D.,L.D. Registered Dietitian

Tiffany Glenn, M.S., R.D.,L.D. Registered Dietitian

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