Nothing says “Texas” like youth sports. From soccer tots to linebackers and gymnasts, our kids are ready to compete. To help them perform at their best, they need more than practice, pads and playing time. They need proper nutrition.
Four tips for fueling your athlete
1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
Proper hydration — before, during and after exercise — is vital, says Shane Miller, M.D., pediatric sports medicine specialist at Children’s. Not only is it one of the most important aids to athletic performance, it will ensure your child doesn’t dehydrate. An hour before exercise, your child should drink an ounce of water for every 10 pounds of body weight. For example, a 120-pound boy should drink 12 ounces of water. He should then drink water every 20 minutes during exercise, followed by plenty of water afterward.
2. Follow USDA nutrition guidelines.
Generally, there is no need for a special diet or use of supplements, says Deborah Stern, R.D., a clinical dietitian at Children’s. Eating a balanced diet recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture will give your athlete plenty of energy. Depending upon the type of athlete (strength or endurance) and the intensity of the exercise, there may be a need for increased macronutrients, such as protein or carbohydrates. You can review specific plans with a dietitian.
3. Eat two or three hours before exercise.
This timing will give your young athlete plenty of fuel for the game without the full stomach feeling. Include complex carbohydrates in that pre-sports meal.
4. Go easy on the sports drinks.
Our bodies are 60 percent water, so water is the best form of hydration for your child in most cases. If heavy sports activities last longer than an hour, a sports drink can help replace electrolytes lost through sweat, says Dr. Miller.