Sport nutrition on its own has been a hot topic the last couple of years. Adults read up about it, follow it to the T and spend thousands on the latest trending supplements. Bigger and better has become even bigger and nothing but the best is good enough. But what about the young generation? Sport “addictions” start earlier than adulthood. Adolescents are eating and training today to become the “bigger and better” of tomorrow. What should they be consuming to help with performance, assist with recovery and avoid injury? Let’s explore this.
NUTRITIONAL RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ADOLESCENT ATHLETES
Nutritional recommendations are guidelines used to help an individual optimise their chances of growing optimally, train harder and recover faster without compromising their health. These guidelines should always be used with the individual’s needs in mind.
- Protein 1.2–1.8 g/kg/day derived from whole food sources.
After exercise: 20 g of high quality protein shortly after exercise1.
- Carbohydrate During exercise: 30–60 g/hr for exercise lasting more than 1 hour.
After exercise: 1.0–1.5 g/kg of body mass within 30 minutes of exercise cessation1.
- Fluid Before exercise: 5–7 ml/kg 4 hrs prior to exercise.
During exercise: assess sweat rate and develop hydration plan to maintain body mass during exercise.
After exercise: 450–675 ml/0.5 kg and additional sodium consideration to account for loss through sweat1.
- Iron deficiency can affect performance negatively, especially in athletes that compete in endurance events. recommended intake for boys and girls aged 9 – 13 years is 18mg per day. Boys and girls aged 14 – 18 years should consume 11mg – 14mg per day respectively1. Iron rich foods such as red meat, green leafy vegetables, beans, peanuts and dried fruit should be included into their diets.
- Calcium requirements are higher during adolescence. Intake should be 1300mg per day to promote proper bone growth and density1. Dairy products are ideal to ensure that enough calcium is consumed. Make sure your child eats breakfast with a dairy source as this makes it easier to ensure that these needs are met.
During exercise: sodium to offset losses associated with sweat being lost in sweat1.
WHERE DO SUPPLEMENTS FIT IN?
Natural protein containing foods are sufficient to meet the adolescent athlete’s needs if he or she consumes a healthy balanced diet. There is no specific need to take additional supplements. If your child is very busy and you use a balanced “supplement” as an emergency meal replacement, that is not necessarily “supplementing” but “replacing” which definitely has a place in a busy mom’s schedule. If your child struggles with gaining weight and is hungry all the time rather consider a nutrient dense food such as FUTURELIFE® HIGH ENERGY Smart Food™ or FUTURELIFE® Smart Drink™. The key here is to keep the meals and snacks as balanced as possible. In other words it should contain, carbohydrates, protein and fat.
It is also a lot safer to let your child eat food sources rather than drinking supplements.Supplements are not only high in protein but contain plenty of other ingredients that are not tested on children younger than 18 years to be proven safe for them.
The adolescent athlete definitely needs some extra nutrients to ensure proper growth and development. It is very important to understand that children develop while training. You should feed their bodies and not only their training sessions. Fuel their playing and performance with a healthy balanced food based diet. Be mindful of the long term consequences of giving the go ahead to consume supplements. Proper guidance on a healthy diet is far more permanent and valuable than any medal.
1. Nutritional Considerations for Performance in Young Athletes. JohnEricW. Smith, Megan E. Holmes, and Matthew J. McAllister. Mississippi State : Hindawi Publishing Corporation, 2015, Vol. 2015. 734649.