Youth Sports Nutrition Tips
By Paula Schmitt
One of the most common questions parents ask regarding their child's nutrition during sports is - what is the healthiest thing for my child to eat and drink before playing sports?
With our family of athletes, we have learned that offering high carbohydrate foods (also called complex carbohydrates) versus high protein and fatty foods two to three hours before a game is very important to maintain the energy needed for them. Some examples of high-carbohydrate foods are foods such as pastas, breads and cereal which are digested quicker than high-protein and fatty foods. Unfortunately, most children, and adults, forget just how important nutrition is to good health and athletic performance.
Fruit is actually an excellent source of complex carbohydrates and fluids and can be eaten one to two hours before a sporting event. My children enjoy raw, dried and canned fruits or fruit juice before we head out to a game.
Fluids are extremely important, before, during and after a game and my children have discovered that staying hydrated makes for a better performance. For elementary and middle-school aged children, eight ounces of water before, during and after the sporting event is extremely important, especially if the outdoor temperatures are high. During a game, athletes should be allowed to take fluid breaks when needed to maintain their best and safest performance, and of course, caffeinated and carbonated beverages are not recommended.
If your child tires easily in practice and appears irritable, and their performance suddenly declines, dehydration may be the cause. The following are more signs that your child is dehydrated:
* Dry lips and tongue
* Sunken eyes
* Bright colored or dark urine or urine with a strong odor
* Infrequent urination
* Apathy or lack of energy
So pack up those water bottles and sport drinks (and don't forget the fruit) and head out after a healthy meal full of high-carbohydrates to enjoy your child's sporting activity.
Oh, and don't forget the sunscreen!