Sports Nutrition for Young Athletes

nutrition kids

(This article is written in response to questions we got from coaches and parents of our own kids sport’s teams   Thanks for all questions, comments and advice – we all get better when we discuss ideas.  I can’t stress enough how much I appreciate feedback on this site but I will stress how little I do actually receive – please!…subscribe and follow this site.  Do comment, PM and email me with any ideas you have!)

 

 – My sons and daughters are now old enough to be starting athletics.  Kid’s sports all the way up to Middle school competitive leagues.  They play all kinds of sports – and play them all year long.

5:45 am cross country to school all day and soccer, gymnastics in the evenings.  The sports change each season but one thing we do is push our bodies in our family.  Try everything, have fun…PLAY!

 

They needs fuel.  They needs the right fuel to keep the kid machine going all day long.

 

They also needs that fuel to keep from breaking down.   From glycogen to allow for bursts of speed and power to key vitamins and minerals that act as neurotransmitters to keep his brain functioning during geography class to proteins to rebuild muscle tissue and fats to optimize the entire system and keep their brains bursting with new ideas.

 

Add to all this – Their nutrition speeds up or wreaks havoc on their ability to recovery from injuries.  And then there’s some of the new “bio-hacking” info to maximize performance and we have a thousand ways that…

What our kids put into their bodies makes a difference.

 

I think growing up in our family, my kids just kind of “get” nutrition.  I hear them  sharing a lot of information to teammates.   My wife and I, as the parents as well as  former and current athletes AND sports based chiropractors focus a lot of time and energy towards clients involved in sports and sports med.  We field a lot of questions on nutrition all year long.

 

So in an effort to help spread good information about nutrition, here’s a little run down Nikki and I put together for you parents. 

This is the basics.

Specific cases, such as allergies, diabetes, metabolic conditions, supplementation for high school and college athletes are a case by case workup and won’t be discussed in this article.

Nor will specialized diets such as keto, intermittent fasting and new trends like reactive foods and lectin problems.    But I do write and podcast on these topics and have included links if you’re looking to dive deeper.

 

 Nikki and I just want to lay a good foundation for you as parents so you can offer your kids the best opportunities to excel at sports and life!

 

Rule 1 – and if you read nothing else UNDERSTAND THIS!

At this point in the game we all KNOW what are good foods and what aren’t. If you’re one of those that just don’t seem to understand I would say you are either living under a rock or are in denial.   

As Carter the intern just said, 

“The hard part isn’t the food.  The hard part is getting your kids to care.   It’s easy vs effort.”  

 

A little info goes a long way, so here we go.  I love parents to know the game, here’s your “Know the game- Nutrition 101”

There are 3 main categories of “macronutrients” you should know.   The foods you eat are made up of these building blocks.

 

Carbs

Fats

Protein

 

You and your kids need all three.

The RATIO of these building blocks as well as the QUALITY of these make a difference in how we all look, feel and function.   Better quality foods such as vegetables and lean meats and ‘good fats’ make our bodies work better. Crappy foods like sugar laden cereals and 20 oz sodas don’t work as well.   I’ve often used the analogy with kids: “If you were going to build a skyscraper would you rather use steel and concrete for your structure or popsicle sticks and school glue?” What you eat matters!

 

Carbohydrates

Don’t be scared off of carbs just because the keto diet is hot right now!  

 You need these, your kids need these – carbs turn into glycogen which equals muscle power!   Vegetables especially. Just like your grandma used to tell you – “Vegetables are SUPERFOODS” AND PRACTICALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO overeat.  Love it or hate it, Broccoli is a fantastic POWER food for growing kids. 

 

Carbs are also what breads, cereals and pasta is made up of but these kind of carbs aren’t nearly as powerful and functional as the veggie kind.  These “fast burn” carbs are also usually much more sugar packed/frosted/blended and although some sugars are usable as fuel, more so in your kids, the odds are they’re ingesting way too much. 

Especially sodas. Drinkable sugars are just plain bad for our athletes. Eliminate these and you’ve made a big impact immediately.

 

The question always comes up about Gatorade and other sports drinks.  Because they have sugars in them.  Personally, I’m OK with these during activity, especially in athletes. Our bodies do USE sugars as fuel when we are engaged in athletics so I’m not one to preach the evils of Gatorade.   They are a terrible option however as substitute for sodas to be used 5-7x a day.   Your kid drinking a 32 oz. Gatorade as he’s playing FORTNITE isn’t beneficial for him. At all. Save it for the field and court.

 

Protein

The king – make sure your kids get this in, especially immediately after activity.   

Depending on your kid’s ages I’m OK with an occasional protein shake etc.  Truly though, food sources – lean meats, eggs, chicken and fish, tofu etc work much better and are better for you.

 

Fats

 Are not bad, in fact good fats (ex: avocado, coconut oils, fish and nuts) are serious brain power and tissue recovery foods.   Eat healthy fat!
Now onto the special players.  The extras:

 

Electrolytes

Are a great supplemental food and something I give my kids all the time.  They are great to maximize hydration but even more important, they are neurotransmitters – (see my article for more information). My guess is you parents need this too. 

 

Vitamins and Minerals 

I think these are a good idea. Unless your kid is really eating well and has a huge spectrum of multiple colors on their plate, they need it.    

 

I occasionally use the gummy vitamins but truthfully, these probably aren’t much better than candy gummies – there’s probably not a real amount of vitamins working on this stuff.

I’d suggest a “greens” powder you add to a smoothie-

The kids like it and it’s a better more absorbable source.  

 

Tips:

1)  You know what’s crappy food and what’s not – if your kids main meals are corn dogs and Doritos, they aren’t getting the best fuel they can.

(my kid’s are by no means perfect – we’re still a pizza party family so I won’t be a hypocrite but I will stress that my kid’s know nutrition and when it’s brought to their attention they tend make smart decisions.  You can create healthy habits AND AT THE SAME TIME foster good life long decision making if you get them involved in their own nutrition.)

Them: “Dad, can I have a Coke?”

Me:  “Man, you worked really hard today, don’t you think a water or a fizzy would be better for you?”

Them, “Is a Bubbly ok or a HINT water?”

Me:  “bingo!”

2)  After activity, get them some protein.  As much as I am getting more and more into a low or no sugar guy myself, I like chocolate milk for my kids.   It’s a pretty good ratio of fats, protein and carbs – and an occasional peanut butter/protein shake for my 6th grader makes him feel like (and play like) a boss.

3)  Electrolytes are getting to be a bigger deal each year.   Be on the cutting edge – get them some of this.

 

Soreness after activity – that’s called DOMS – it’s normal.  But there are ways to deal with it faster – 

Electrolytes, water, movement (yoga type stuff or lots of outdoor play like hide and seek or ninja warrior), limit processed foods and soda.   

We also have a really fantastic product from hammer brand nutrition called tissue rejuvenator  that is a natural, no drug anti-inflammatory and joint health capsule that I use frequently with my kids and use nearly daily myself.  Tissue rejuv

 

If you or your kids have more specific needs or feel the need to increase supplementation in the form of shakes, creatine or specialized diets – that is more of a one on one scenario and I would be happy to help out on any of that, but it takes a professional, with a real exam and decision making and testing – I’m not going to put that kind of stuff on a generalized article.

 

Hope this helps.  Don’t forget – We are the owners of ARMADILLO SPORT CHIROPRACTIC.   We have tons of things we can do in the clinic to help with injuries, pre-hab and sports performance.   We built an entire profession and clinic on young athletes and performance – don’t hesitate to give us a try.

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