8 Tips for Feeding Your Young Athlete
By janis on Feb 3, 2014

good foodYour child spends hours in practice and you may spend a good chunk on sports equipment, but is your child really ready to play?

He is, if you are helping him from the inside out. The right foods and drinks can help your child be a better athlete.

Remember variety. All kids need to eat a variety of healthy foods, and especially athletes. They need protein (meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans, nuts and dairy), carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables and whole grains), vitamins (fruits, vegetables), minerals (dairy products), and some fat, usually found in meats, cheeses, nuts, oils, and butter.

Feed them more. What makes athletes different when it comes to eating? They most likely need more food because they burn more calories by practicing and playing. Kids ages 6-12 need 1600-2200 calories a day. An athlete might need more. And donʼt forget that calorie needs also go up during puberty.

Give them plenty of calcium. Calcium is important for all kids, but it is especially essential for athletes. Calcium builds strong bones which are less likely to break under the strain of sports activity. Feed them dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, and orange juice.

Pump the iron. Iron helps them keep up their energy. Include iron-rich foods in their diet, such as meat, dried beans and fortified cereals.

No dieting. I guess wrestlers would be an exception because they have to stay within a certain weight limit, but normally itʼs not a good idea for young athletes to go on diets. Help them focus on eating right, not eating less.

Drink up! Athletes need water before, way before, like hours and days before exercise. Donʼt let your kid wait until practice to start drinking. They need to hydrate constantly. Another option is fruit juice with water. A sports drink is okay every now and then.

Balance their pre-game intake. Youʼe probably heard of loading up on carbs before a game, but if you want to keep your childʼs body in shape for the long haul, itʼs not good to focus on only one type of food. Yes, carbs are a good source of fuel, but theyʼre only one of many foods an athlete should eat.

A good pre-game meal is eaten 2-4 hours before and should be high in carbohydrates with small amounts of fat and protein. The meal should be low in fiber, not too big, and include non-caffeinated drinks. Avoid spicy, gas-producing foods.Avoid fast food. I know this is hard when you are running your kids around all over the place. But eating that fatty food will only hinder their performance. When my kids played in tournaments, weʼd often run to a sub sandwich shop or get a fruit smoothie.

Getting their uniforms washed, taxiing them to the games, working the snack bar–these are important sports parenting duties. But feeding your athlete properly could be the most important one of all.


Janis B. Meredith writes a sportsparenting blog, http://jbmthinks.com. She’s been a sports mom for 21 years, and a coach’s wife for 28, and sees life from both sides of the bench. You can also follow her on facebook and twitter.


photo credit: Trisha Weir via photopin cc