Sports Nutrition for Young Athletes

by / ⠀NatureBox / June 28, 2012

Building stronger bodies from the ground up
by NatureBox Nutritionist Kat Brown, MS RD RYT

Kids are out there playing hard this time of year! Between more outdoor play, sports camps, and conditioning for fall sports, they need good fuel and hydration to keep them on top of their game. Here are some tips to keep your young super star going strong, whatever their active pursuits may bring.


Core concepts: stick to a nutrient-dense diet
Active bodies need high quality fuel. The nutrition prescription for young athletes builds from the same framework of general, healthful eating- meals and snacks about every 3 hours, lots of colorful produce, healthy fats, lean proteins, sufficient calcium for growing bones, and fun foods too!

Iron is also an important nutrient in our diets because it carries oxygen in our blood and plays a part in our metabolism. For optimal energy, make sure you’re including lean red meat, iron rich veggies, or iron fortified cereals regularly.

During the summer, lack of structure can throw off healthy eating habits, but with some attention, it doesn’t have to turn into a free-for-all (check out our post about staying in the routine in the summer). In fact, the young ones may have more time to participate in meal planning, grocery shopping and meal preparation, giving them an appreciation for the eating process.

Hydration: what to drink…
Help kids fight off the loss of energy, cramping, and heat exhaustion from dehydration with sufficient fluids before and during activity. Most adolescents need 10-12 cups of fluid per day at baseline, and during exercise, athletes need an additional 4-8 ounces for every 15-20 minutes of intense activity. These fluid needs can be met by water and sports drinks. Water is sufficient in cooler climates or for activities lasting less than an hour. If your young athlete is participating in a longer bout of activity, especially in a hot climate, a sports drink is a good call to replace fluid, sugars and electrolytes. There are many low-sugar and more natural options of sports drinks out there, don’t be afraid to try something different, even if it’s not neon green!

…and what not to drink
Some drinks are not recommended during activity- like fruit juices, milk, or caffeinated energy drinks. Fruit juices and milk have too much carbohydrate and may cause stomach upset. And while they are marketed to young people and provide quick energy through stimulants, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that adolescents and children not consume energy drinks. Low-fat chocolate milk (made it at home to control the amount of chocolate syrup!) is great for refueling after activity with the perfect balance of fluid, carbohydrate and protein for muscle rebuilding.

Following these tips will help your aspiring athlete to not only meet their needs for their activity, but also for their growth and maturation.

Get more healthy ideas and delicious snacks by joining NatureBox. Enter coupon code NATURE for 25% off your first month subscription!

Kat Brown MS RD RYT is a San Francisco Bay Area based Registered Dietitian and Yoga Teacher. As a nutrition counselor, writer, cook, and yogini she seeks to inspire others to nourish themselves and live balanced, fulfilled lives.

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