Strategy #4: Micronutrients Matter For overall health, growth, development, and athletic performance, many vitamins and minerals are required. For young athletes, significant attention should be…
Nutrition requirements for young athletes, defined as age 5 to 18 years, are unique in that energy and nutrient needs must meet the essentials for daily training and the demands of growth and development. Young athletes, children, and adolescents are not "small adults," and approaches to dietary recommendations should reinforce nutrition for long-term health and a positive relationship with food.
The long-term focus of athletic development of youth athletes doesn't start with high performance, but as the culmination of a step-wise model. Nutrition recommendations should not focus only on sports performance but should ensure needs are met for optimal growth, maturation, and development.
Nutritional recommendations and guidance for young athletes should begin with ensuring nutrition adequacy for proper development and building habits for a healthy relationship with food that carries into adulthood. This may include recognizing the value of balance and variety, highlighting the importance of critical nutrients for cognition, bone health, immune function, muscle growth and repair, gut health, optimal performance, and preventing injuries related to nutrient deficiencies. Fueling for growth, such as increasing muscle mass and for training and competition, are built upon this foundation.
Research regarding the nutritional needs of youth athletes is limited; therefore, most sport nutrition recommendations for youth are based on findings in adults.
In Part 1 of our series Nutrition for Young Athletes, we discuss energy and carbohydrate needs.Bring It Home Today
Energy expenditure is composed of four components: basal or resting metabolic rate, thermic effect of food (the energy needed to digest and metabolize the food we eat), thermic effect of activity (the energy to fuel activity and exercise), and the energy requirements for non-exercise activity such as brushing your teeth or getting out of bed in the morning.
The energy demands for proper growth and maturation are reflected in resting metabolic rate (RMR). RMR increases with increasing body mass; however, per unit of body mass, RMR decreases as we progress to our adult size.
Inadequate caloric intake or underfueling in young athletes may negatively impact growth and maturation through energy and nutrient deficiencies. There is no reason that youth athletes need to be on low-calorie diets or severely restricting caloric intake to make weight.
Chronically low energy availability, < 30 calories per kg of fat-free mass, has shown to :
The nutritional requirements of young athletes are influenced by:
Minimum recommendations for energy availability should be >45 calories per kg of fat-free mass daily.
Your young athletes should not follow any crazy or restrictive diets that omit entire food groups and/or severely limit energy availability.
Specifically looking at carbohydrate recommendations, young athletes differ from adults in energy metabolism or the type of fuel used during exercise. Research suggests that young athletes have an "immature" glycolytic or anaerobic capacity, a higher reliance on oxidative pathways, and higher fat oxidation (Riddell, 2008). Before puberty, they have a higher dependence on exogenous carbohydrate sources during exercise.
Young athletes may benefit from consuming a carbohydrate beverage during intermittent high-intensity exercise by enhancing endurance capacity (Phillips et al., 2011).
Carbohydrate recommendations for young athletes are based on adult carbohydrate recommendations and can vary based on sport, intensity, and training volume:
And at least 1/4 of their plate from non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus, spinach, mixed greens salads, Brussel sprouts, tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms, onions, and bell peppers.
Don't forget to add fruits like berries, bananas, oranges, kiwi, pineapples, mango, peaches, pears, and apples.
|Carbohydrate Guidelines for Adolesent Athletes|
|Immediate Recovery (0-4 hours after exercise)||1.0-1.2 g/kg/hour up to hours, then resume daily needs|
|Daily Sports Guidelines|
|Low Intensity or Skill-Based Exercise||3-5 g/kg/d|
|Moderate Exercise (training 1 hr/day)||5-7 g/kg/d|
|Endurance (training 1-3 hr/day)||6-10 g/kg/d|
|Extreme Exercise (training 4-5 hr/day)||8-12 g/kg/d|
|During Sport Guidelines|
|Short duration (0-75 minutes)||Not required or small amount|
|Medium or long duration (75 min -2.5 hours)||30-60 g/hr|
Burke et al., 2011; Desbrow et al., 2014
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