If your children are involved in extracurricular sports or exercise regularly, they need extra calories, vitamins and nutrients to help give them energy while exercising and support their growing bodies. If they don’t get enough of these vitamins and nutrients, or make unhealthy food choices, they may be less likely to reach their peak performance and may actually lose muscle mass instead of building it.
Listed below are some nutrition tips that you should keep in mind if your children are involved in sports.
Vitamins and Minerals
It is essential that your children get plenty of calcium and iron in their diet. Calcium is important because it helps build strong bones, which can help reduce the likelihood of stress fractures while exercising. Encourage your children to eat low-fat dairy products, including milk, cheese and yogurt. Iron transports oxygen to the muscles. If your children don’t get enough iron, they may tire easily since their muscles aren’t getting enough oxygen, which can in turn affect their athletic performance. To help make sure they get enough iron in their diet, offer your children iron-fortified cereals, leafy green vegetables and lean cuts of red meat.
Your children need carbohydrates, with a majority of them coming from whole-grain foods, to help fuel their bodies while they are exercising. Whole-grain foods, such as oats, whole wheat bread, pastas and cereals and starchy vegetables, also provide your children with fiber and nutrients they need to maintain their overall health.
Protein can help your children build strong muscles when combined with strength training and other forms of exercise. Many foods that are good sources of protein are also high in fat, however, so you need to educate your children about which ones to choose. Encourage your children to eat protein-rich foods such as fish, skinless white meat poultry, low-fat dairy products and soy products.
In addition to eating a healthy diet, it is also important that your children are properly hydrated when they are exercising. Your children need to drink plenty of water or other fluids before, during and after exercising to help avoid heat-related illnesses and dehydration. The National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) has made the following recommendations regarding hydration and exercise:
- Before exercise.
Drink 17-20 ounces of fluid 2 to 3 hours before activity, and drink an additional 7 to 10 ounces 10 to 20 minutes prior to exercise.
- During exercise.
While exercising, you should drink 7 to 10 ounces every 15 minutes.
- After exercise.
Drink at least 20 ounces of fluid for every pound lost within 2 hours of finishing your workout.