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Nutrition For Your Young Athlete
Nutrition is extremely important for any young person,especially an athletic one, and even more so during thedevelopmental years of their life. Whether your child isinvolved in soccer or football, gymnastics or swimming orLittle League, he or she needs a good nutritive balance inorder to be successful in any endeavor. It cannot bestressed enough that anorexia and bulimia, chronicmalnutrition, are absolutely devastating not only to anathlete's career, but also to overall health andwell-being. You should always watch for decreased eatingin your child, no matter how robust and healthy they mayseem.
Interestingly enough, very few scientific studies on thenutrition of child athletes have been published. You don'treally need to be a scientist (or an alchemist) to create ahealthy menu for your active youth, though. All you needis a little bit of creativity, and, of course, the factsabout different kinds of foods. As is dictated by commonsense, it's necessary for kids who are active to consumemore caloric energy than their couch potato counterparts.Sometimes, they must take in several hundred - or even athousand - healthy calories more than the average child,depending upon their age and upon the intensity of thesport they're participating in.
So what types of food should you give your gymnast? I'llhelp you out.
Everyday nutrition calls for a healthy balance of protein,calcium, vitamins and minerals. The most important type ofcaloric intake for a child athlete is carbohydrates.Without carbohydrates, the body cannot readily replenishits stores of energy in the muscles and in the liver.
Simple carbohydrates, like those found in most candies andchocolates, are not enough & harful if consumed excessively: they are used up tooquickly and if eaten before competing can cause changes inblood pressure (of course, you can splurge every once in awhile -- just not constantly). Longer term effects may be changes insulin secretion and resulting problems.
Pasta, bread, and rice -- in other words, foods from grain-- are best overall for carbohydrate intake. Fruits andvegetables are excellent sources of carbs and of vitaminsand minerals. Dairy products are especially important forbuilding strong bones and teeth. Meat -- or meat substitute-- is needed for protein intake.
Did you know that if you know...if you put beans and rice together, they create a perfect protein?
Most plants don't produce all of the proteins we as humanbeings need to survive -- but if they are eaten at the sametime, they give you all the protein you need. That meansyou can have refried beans with rice, or meatless chiliwith rice, or a variety of other combinations, if indeedyou don't want to eat beef, chicken, pork, or other animalproteins.
Before an Event
Approximately two to three hours before your child is toparticipate in an event, or indeed in training, you shouldhave them eat a light meal filled with carbohydrates: abowl of spaghetti, a sandwich with lettuce and a glass offruit juice, carrot sticks and a piece of cheese, orsomething else to their taste. It's always advisable tohave them exert themselves on a slightly empty stomach,because they may experience cramping or fatigue otherwise.
During an Event
During an event or practice, it is vitally important thatyour athlete remain hydrated. When he or she sweatsprofusely, water is lost to the atmosphere via evaporation.A lot of vapor is also lost through deep breathing.
This is the body's natural cooling system. It needs to bereplenished, just like the cooling elements in your airconditioner. Every twenty to thirty minutes duringstrenuous exercise, your child should drink six to eightounces of water. A sports drink is acceptable sometimes,so long as it has few carbohydrates (under 15-20 grams isbest). Even diluted fruit juice (one part water to onepart juice) will work well.
Keep in mind that dehydration is a very serious problem withathletes -- and when they begin to feel thirsty, it mayalready be too late. Whether or not they are thirsty, youshould keep them hydrated with water, juice, or sportsdrinks.
After an Event
After an event, it's a good idea to let your child havesomething full of carbohydrates to eat - just like thepre-game meal. This will replenish their energy stores andease their recovery time.
With all of this, good luck!
By Murray Hughes
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