Ensuring that your youth athlete gets the right nutrients is absolutely critical to his or her overall health and wellbeing. Proper nutrition helps ensure proper growth and development as well as optimal athletic performance. So, which nutrients are among the most important? Take a look at the five nutrients that your athlete needs today.
- Calcium. Calcium helps ensure your youth athlete’s bones are tough enough to support any falls or collisions in the field, on the rink, or in the gym. Good sources of calcium include low-fat dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese. Leafy green vegetables, such as broccoli, are also an excellent source of calcium.
- Protein. Protein is vital, as it helps athletes to both build and repair muscles. Sufficient protein will help your youth athlete maintain healthy muscles and ensure he or she has sufficient energy for endurance activities, in which proteins are needed help to maintain blood glucose. You should make sure that at least 10 percent of your youth athlete’s energy intake is comprised of proteins.
- Iron. All athletes need iron, as it helps to carry oxygen throughout the body, which is especially important during strenuous physical activity. Remember, dietary iron recommendations are 1.3 to 1.7 times higher for athletes than for non-athletes, so it’s important to make sure your youth athlete is stocking up on iron-rich foods, such as lean cuts of red meat, eggs, legumes, dried fruits, and nuts.
- Carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates should form the base of your youth athlete’s diet, comprising 45 percent to 65 percent of total caloric intake. Your youth athlete needs carbohydrates for energy during physical activity, as carbohydrates are what provide the glucose the body uses while it’s active. This glucose is stored as glycogen in muscles and the liver, and it can be released as a quick and efficient energy source. Whole grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, and yogurt are all great sources of carbohydrates for your youth athlete.
- Fats. While it might seem counterintuitive, all youth athletes need fats. Diets with good sources of fats help athletes absorb fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K), ensuring that the right vitamins are getting where they need to go. Furthermore, fats help provide essential fatty acids, work to protect vital organs, and provide insulation. As a general rule of thumb, somewhere between 25 percent and 35 percent of your youth athlete’s total energy intake should be comprised of fats. The key here is to focus on healthy fats and avoid saturated fats. That means stocking up on lean meat, fish, seeds, nuts, and dairy products while avoiding fatty junk foods, such as chips, candy, french fries, and other fried goods.
Of course, ensuring that your youth athlete gets all of the necessary nutrients is easier said than done. Between school, practice, and homework, finding time for nutrition can be a challenge. That’s why considering a supplement can be advantageous. A healthy, all-natural supplement can be a great way to give your youth athlete the extra edge they need to succeed.