Food for Kids in Sport

September 9, 2016


  • Make sure your child drinks enough fluids

    • Children have special fluid needs. Compared to adults, kids are more likely to suffer a heat illness when exercising in the heat.

    • Give your kids a sports drink to prevent fatigue and dehydration. Studies show that lightly sweetened, flavored, non-carbonated beverages such as sports drinks do a better job than water of preventing dehydration.  [But remember: sports drinks should not be consumed at meals, and should generally only be used when an athlete is playing sports for more than hour.

    • Have your kids drink according to a schedule. Give kids a squeeze bottle and have them drink 5 to 9 ounces ever 20 minutes to keep hydrated.

    • Weigh kids before and after exercise to determine how much fluids they are losing during activity. After exercise have your child drink at least 24 ounces of a sports drink for every pound lost during exercise.

  • Practice supplement safety

    • The FDA does not regulate dietary supplements. There is thus no guarantee of purity, safety or effectiveness.

    • What's in the bottle may do more harm than good.

    • Don't risk your child's health!

  • Optimize muscle recovery

    • Help young muscles recover fast - have children eat and/or drink a high protein snack within 30 minutes after exercise

    • Eat a high carbohydrate, moderate protein meal 1-2 hours later to continue with muscle recovery.

  • Remember pre-exercise meals

    • A pre-exercise meal is important to prevent hunger and to supply energy to athletes' working muscles.

    • The night before competition and 2 hours before exercise: focus on carbs, moderate protein, low-fat foods and fluids (pasta with veggies and chicken, fruit, milk, cereal, yogurt, toast, juice).

  • Target carbohydrates for energy

    • Carbohydrates are the main energy source for exercise and the major fuel for the brain.

    • Carbohydrates stores (glycogen) in the body are limited kids must replenish carbohydrate stores every day.

    • Top food sources: pasta, rice, breads, milk, yogurt, cereals, fruits and vegetables. For a list of high carbohydrate foods, click here.

  • Protein's the building block

    • Protein plays a role in building muscle, fighting infection, and provides signals and controls for tissue growth and maintenance.

    • While protein is important, a high-protein diet is not recommended for athletes and replacing carbohydrates with protein can actually impair athletic performance. Without adequate carbs an athlete will tire quickly and won't have the energy to train or compete.

    • Top food sources: poultry, meat, fish, cheese, yogurt, milk and beans or legumes.

  • Don't forget some fat

    • A high-fat diet is not healthy - but neither is a zero-fat diet.

    • Having some fat in the diet is important for health and is a key energy source for young athletes.

    • Go for low-fat foods as well as non-fat foods.

  • Keep kids' fuel tanks filled

    • In addition to healthy meals, provide healthy snacks before and after exercise.

    • Pack high-carbohydrate, moderate protein, low-fat snacks such as granola bars, energy bars, pretzels, trail mix, fruit, peanut butter and crackers, bagels, and fluids. For a list of snacks, click here

  • Variety is the spice of life

    • A healthy lifestyle is all about making choices.

    • Are your kids eating the same foods day after day? They're probably missing out on important nutrients be different try new foods and recipes.

    • Foods high in carbohydrates and fiber (grains, veggies, fruits) are essential to good health.

  • Get your kids energized!

    • Meet active kids' energy needs through foods and fluids.

    • The best balance for active kids: 50-55% of calories from carbohydrates, such as bread, cereal, rice and pasta; 10-15% from protein food like meat, poultry, fish, dry beans and nuts; and 25-30% from fats such as oils and sweets.










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