A healthy diet is essential to meet an athletic child’s energy needs. All children, regardless of athletic ability, should eat a balanced diet. However, those with a higher level of activity need the right combination and amount of food to perform at their best levels.
Game-day meal content and timing can directly impact a young athlete’s performance on the field. A full stomach requires energy to digest, so it is important to stop eating two hours before activity to save energy levels for the event. Although high-fiber foods are nutritious, they also may cause stomach upset and should not be eaten before activity. High-fat foods take longer to digest and should also be avoided up to three hours before a game or event. Instead, kids should eat an ample amount of carbohydrates, found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, along with a moderate amount of proteins, such as those found in meat, eggs and dairy.
Fluids are critical in preventing dehydration during activity and should be consistently consumed before, during and after exercise. Experts recommend athletes drink water or other fluids in 15 to 20-minute intervals as well as after the activity to replenish fluid levels lost through sweat. The body depletes its readily available energy supply after one hour of exercise, so sports drinks are a good option for kids who are active for 60 to 90 minutes.
For optimal performance, young athletes need a variety of vitamins, protein and carbohydrates. Athletic kids especially need calcium and iron in their diets to build strong bones and sustain energy. These nutrients can be found in dairy products, green leafy vegetables, meat, dried beans and fortified cereals. To learn more about nutrients for kids, visit the free, online health library on the Doctors Hospital at White Rock Lake website at DoctorsHospitalDallas.com/KidsNutrients.
Doctors Hospital at White Rock Lake
9400 Poppy Drive
Dallas, TX 75218