Research shows that moderate exercise in childhood is good for growth and healthy development. It works to facilitate healthy bone growth, helping prevent osteoporosis in later years and lay the foundations for a healthy, active lifestyle throughout adulthood. However, when a youth athlete is engaging in extremely vigorous activity and isn’t getting the right nutrition to support that activity, there can be problems. If you’re worried that poor nutrition may be stunting your youth athlete’s growth, be sure to keep the following in mind.

Is your student athlete restricting calories? Youth athletes that engage in high-energy-expenditure sports that also place an emphasis on caloric restriction, such as gymnastics, long-distance running, ballet, and wrestling, are at the highest risk of stunted growth. That’s because in addition to depriving a youth athlete of the necessary nutrition for proper growth and development, the combination of high energy expenditure and caloric restriction can actually delay the onset of puberty, which research has shown can further stunt growth. Always make sure that your youth athlete is getting the right number of calories to support both his or her exercise energy needs and normal growth and development. In many cases, an active child may need up to 1,500 calories more per day than a non-active child.

Get enough carbohydrates. All youth athletes, especially those engaged in high-energy-expenditure sports, absolutely need to be getting a sufficient amount of carbohydrates. A diet deficient in carbohydrates means your child won’t have sufficient glycogen stores. As a result, the body will turn to eating muscle to get the energy it needs. This isn’t good for long-term growth and development and can also cause fatigue and weakness, a weaker immune system, and even cognitive impairment. To ensure your son or daughter is getting enough carbohydrates, make sure that he or she is consuming a good balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. If you notice your young athlete is avoiding carbs, that’s a problem that needs to be addressed.

Your young athlete has lost weight or isn’t gaining weight. Weight gain is a healthy part of growth and development in children and adolescents. For example, the average healthy 7-year-old will typically gain between 4 to 5 pounds in a year, while the average healthy 10-year-old will normally gain between 9 and 10. If your youth athlete isn’t gaining weight, it’s definitely a red flag and could be a sign that poor nutrition is stunting your athlete’s growth.

Your student athlete is constantly tired or sick. If you notice that your youth athlete is constantly tired, it’s an indication of poor nutrition. Over time, this could stunt growth. Illness is another red flag, as when an athlete is constantly sick, it means that he or she isn’t getting the nutrition needed to support their immune system. A constantly tired or sick athlete likely is experiencing some kind of nutritional deficiency.

Your youth athlete lacks focus and has trouble paying attention. The signs of poor nutrition aren’t just physical. There are some cognitive signs that may indicate that poor nutrition is stunting your youth athlete’s growth. In extreme cases of nutritional deficiencies, young athletes may actually suffer from cognitive damage, as the brain simply won’t have the nutrients or energy needed to function properly. This can manifest as a lack of focus and trouble paying attention, so if you notice this is a reoccurring problem, it may be time to reevaluate your athlete’s diet.

The bottom line is that if you do have concerns that poor nutrition may be stunting your son or daughter’s growth, it can be advantageous to consider a nutritional supplement. A healthy all-natural nutritional supplement can be an excellent way to ensure your young athlete’s nutritional needs are met and that poor nutrition doesn’t stunt his or her growth.