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Nutrition For Young Athletes

A well-balanced diet is essential for growing athletes maintain proper growth and optimize performance in athletic endeavors.

The success of a player with the sport specific skills like endurance, strength, speed and power are necessary for accurate and rapid performance. With this a balanced diet will help the body to perform the physical activity at its best.

The diet should contain the required nutritional values in order to replenish the energy levels. In order to cope with the demands of training and competition, the nutrition of the players has to be designed to cover their energy expenditures and to sustain good health.

Food Pyramid

The food pyramid is designed to make healthy eating easier.Healthy eating is about getting the correct amount of five nutrients-carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals to perform better.

By making healthful choices within these food groups, like selecting low-fat and high-fiber foods, can boost for good health and have unique benefits.
Following the Food Pyramid as a guide will help to get the right balance of nutritious foods within the calorie range.


Central in nutritional planning for team-sports players is the quantity and type of carbohydrate in their diets. The essential contribution made by this macronutrient to energy metabolism during high intensity exercise is more.

During prolonged intermittent, brief high-intensity running there is a gradual reduction in performance as the match progresses, which is largely the result of a decrease in glycogen contents in skeletal muscles. Carbohydrates should comprise about 45% to 65% of total caloric intake in teens.

Carbohy­drates sources (potatoes, rice, pasta, beans, bread etc).                                    


The protein needs of an athlete are important when trying to increase muscle mass and lean tissue.

When the exercise duration increases more than an hour, proteins help to maintain blood glucose through liver gluconeogenesis.

Protein should comprise approximately 10% to 30% of total energy intake for teens.

Sources of protein include lean meat and poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, beans and nuts, including peanuts.



As a major energy source, fat is essential for light to moderate intensity exercise and for endurance exercise.

While a low-fat diet can be followed, it is important that young athletes consume lower the amount of saturated and trans fat in their diet with an average of 20% to 30% of calories.

The focus should be on an intake of healthy fat from plant oils and soft margarines made with vegetable oils and on limiting the amounts of fried and processed foods.

In the U.S. diet, Cheese,Pizzas and meat products are the biggest food sources of saturated fat, dairy products are also major contributors, it’s a good idea to keep your intake of saturated fats as low as possible.

Vitamins and Minerals

Particular attention should be devoted to ensuring that athletes consume proper amounts of calcium, vitamin D and iron. The intake of vitamins and minerals should be 20% to 30 % of total calories.

Calcium is important for bone health, normal enzyme activity and muscle contraction.

Calcium is contained in a variety of foods like milk, yogurt, cheese, broccoli, spinach, fortified grain products and beverages.

Vitamin D which acts as hormone is a fat-soluble vitamin. It has important functions in the body, including the maintenance of good bone health, muscle function and immunity.Normal values of vitamin D also vary depending on geographical location and race. Athletes living in northern latitudes or who train indoors (eg: figure skaters, gymnasts, dancers) are more likely to be vitamin D deficient.

The major source of vitamin D is exposure to Sun and fortified foods.

The B-vitamins include thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B-6, B-12 and folate. These micronutrients are necessary to improve performance and endurance.

Iron is important for oxygen delivery to body tissues. During adolescence, more iron is required for increases in blood volume, lean muscle mass and to support growth.Iron depletion is common in athletes because of increased iron losses in urine, feces, sweat or menstrual blood or diets poor in meat, fish and poultry.

Therefore, athletes, particularly female athletes, vegetarians should have a periodically check for iron status. Athletes should a high fiber, low-fat food to maintain muscle.

Iron-rich foods include leafy green vegetables, eggs, lean meat and fortified whole grains.


Sweating causes a loss of salts and water from the body, but water is also continually lost on the breath and through the skin. Small losses of water have no effect on performance, but severe dehydration is harmful to performance.Maintaining hydration is important for performance.

Salt replacement is important when sweat losses are high, but needs vary between athletes. In some situations, athletes over hydrate during exercise by drinking more than their sweat losses. It's a caution, problems can occur when the fluid intake is excessive, leading to a serious problem called hyponatremia (dilution of blood sodium concentrations).This is most often seen in recreational exercisers who work at low intensities but drink large volumes of fluid in the belief that they are doing the right thing. An adequate intake of fluid before, during (where appropriate), and after exercise is especially important in hot climates.



Caffeine stimulates the brain and contributes to clearer thinking and greater concentration.The stimulating effects of caffeine can start as early as 15 minutes after consumption and last up to 6 hours.There can be negative consequences from caffeine consumption, particularly if ingested in high doses,consuming more than 500-600 mg of caffeine a day may lead to insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, an upset stomach, a fast heartbeat and even muscle tremors and also the risk of early death.Other than coffee, caffeine is commonly consumed through tea, soft drinks - particularly energy drinks - and chocolate. It is also found in some prescriptions such as allergy, cold and pain medication.

Some reports suggest that consuming three cups of coffee a day may reduce the risk of liver cancer by 50% and even may protect against type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, cardiovascular disease and stroke, while another study suggests that drinking four cups a day could half the risk of mouth and throat cancer.

Soft drinks contain caffeine and caffeine is mildly addictive.Drinking a single 330 ml can a day of sugary drinks translates to more than 1lb of weight gain every month.Researchers have found new evidence that soft drinks sweetened with high fructose may contribute to the development of diabetes.

Fruit juices contain Vitamins, Minerals and antioxidants, but it lacks Fiber and is loaded with sugar.

Soda : Often people drink soda to quench the thirst. If you're addicted to the caffeine in soda, you're really having two habits - the soda habit and the caffeine habit.Drinking soda causes fat build-up around the organs around 25% and almost doubles the amount of fat around the liver, it raises LDL “bad” cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels and blood pressure with a 10% increase in stroke risk. Sodas contain high levels of phosphoric acid and high fructose corn syrup, which leads to kidney stones and kidney disease.Drinking as little as two soft drinks per week, nearly doubles to risk of getting pancreatic cancer.Drinking sodas has an adverse effect on bone mineral density, especially in women( due to the phosphoric acid content)which may result in Osteoporosis and increased fracture risk.

Drinks such as fruit smoothies, liquid meal supplements and fortified milkshakes can provide a substantial source of energy and nutrients that are quick and compact to consume, and less likely to cause gastrointestinal discomfort than bulky foods.

  Eating Guidelines  

The Athletes are all different, and there is no single diet that meets the needs of all athletes at all times.

Individual needs also change across the season and athletes must be flexible to accommodate this.

Generally meals should be taken a minimum of 3 hours before an event to allow for proper digestion and to minimize incidence of gastrointestinal upset during exercise.

For early morning practices or events, having a snack or liquid meal 1 - 2 hours before exercise, followed by a full breakfast after the event, will help ensure sufficient energy to maximize performance.

Recovery foods should be consumed within 30 min of exercise and again within 1 - 2 hours of activity to allow muscles to rebuild and ensure proper recovery. There is no “magic food” that will guarantee success in athletic competition.But the diet with proper planning and disciplined eating, optimal nutrition is when competing away from home.


The choice to pick a vegetarian lifestyle is no way incompatible with success in sport. However, athletes must be more aware of the food choices that they make in order to maintain energy levels, meet training and recovery needs, and to support proper immune function.

Some athletes may use vegetarianism as a means to restrict energy intake in order to achieve a desired physique.

However, plant protein quality and digestion are decreased and often requires an intake of approximately 10% more protein than if not consuming animal proteins.

Dairy or soy milk products may be suitable choices for vegetarians and vegans, respectively.If there are no animal foods in the diet, then a vitamin B12 supplement may be necessary.

Some vegan food products, such as meat substitutes are B12 fortified. Vegetarian athletes may also be at risk for low intakes of fat (essential fatty acids are especially important), riboflavin, vitamin D, and zinc which should be monitored and supplemented in the diet if necessary.

Food Supplements

Many nutrition supplements, including glutamine, zinc, Echinacea, colostrum and others, claim that they can boost the immune system, but there is no strong evidence that any of these products are effective.

Healthy bones need a good supply of calcium,magnesium, phosphorus, Vitamins D and C and protein. Glucosamine, chondroitin, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) and other products are promoted for joint health.

There is some evidence that long-term (2-6 months) Glucosamine treatment can provide subjective relief in elderly individuals suffering from osteoarthritis, but evidence is lacking for a benefit such as a “joint protective” effect from high-intensity training in healthy athletes.

Some supplements do offer the prospect of improved performance for some athletes in specific events. These supplements include creatine, caffeine, bicarbonate, ß-alanine and perhaps a very few others. It's a caution that crosscheck and take the advice for all the supplements consumed with a nutritionist before taken.

Eating Strategies 

Strength Sports [weightlifting, powerlifting, throwing events, 100-200 m sprints, body building]:

Intake of a surplus of carbohydrate to support levels of high lean mass, not excessive amounts of protein (20-25 g) soon after resistance workouts.

Consume low fat food to avoid unnecessarily risk rather than unsaturated fat. Adopt a suitable method if weight loss is required to achieve the targets.

For athletes participating in throwing and sprinting events it's better to keep them hydrated with adequate fluids if time between events exist. Always it's cautioned to take the advice to supplement use.


Endurance sports [Marathon, triathlon, road cycling]:

Consume adequate carbohydrate, high quality protein and fluids for rehydration to promote muscle adaptation and support during the prolonged training sessions.For events lasting longer than 90 minutes, consider carbohydrate loading over the 2-3 days prior to the race.

Can start with a pre-race meal,hydrate during the race. Take care for specialized training phases such as altitude training, it may have fluid loss and iron requirements. Consult the nutritionist for the use of sports food and supplements to take forward the goals to be achieved.

Power sports [Middle distance running, track cycling, rowing canoeing/kayaking and swimming]:

Consume a high quality protein and carbohydrate soon after the key workouts to promote refuelling and adaptation.

Supplements that power athletes might go for being intracellular (ß-alanine) and extracellular (bicarbonate).

Better to consult the expert before taking the food supplements. If there are heats and finals in the events and competing in more than one event, then suggested to access with fluids and foods between races.

Aesthetic and weight class sports [figure skating, gymnastics, diving combating sports, lightweight rowing]:

Go for weight and body fat goals that are achievable and support long-term health and performance.

To meet the energy expenditure take high quality protein over the day so that you maximize your ability to meet nutritional goals.

Seek intervention at an early stage if development issues with food related stress when needed to put on the weight, get ready for the competition by fine-tuning the weight. Recommended for the advice of an expert sports nutritionist for the use of supplements,if unable to meet the desirable goals.

Nutrition for injured athletes 

Poor nutrition can lead to conditions that increase the risk of injury. But injuries are often an unavoidable aspect when participating in physical activity. An injury can be particularly distressing for the eating-disordered athlete. Psychological support is important. No change in diet is necessary when a quick recovery is expected.

There is a need in modification of food intake when an injury limits activity for less than a week. The need to reduce food intake is necessary to meet lower energy needs, if recovery is expected to take longer than a week.Long-term recovery may require an absoulte reduced diet.

Surgical trauma, fever, or infection requires dietary changes. In these cases, protein intake should be increased during the early stages of recovery, because protein repair damaged tissues.

Protein is important for immune function. If a slow recovery is expected, the injury might cause significant emotional stress. Fear, anxiety, and anger are all typical reactions to injury. These emotions can increase the secretion of epinephrine (adrenaline) from the adrenal gland. This in turn can cause a series of metabolic changes that result in increased loss of nitrogen (protein) through the urine.

In general, the importance of psychological support for injured athletes varies depending on length of recovery and injury severity. Anxiety about the injury might lead to increased food cravings, more free time and less structure in the daily routine can lead to boredom and increases opportunities to eat more and it may result in weight gain. Some injured athletes simply do not adjust their energy needs and continue to follow their typical training diet.


Nutritional need while travelling

Maintaining good nutritional practices while traveling to and from events may affect an athlete’s health and athletic success.

A slightly lower carbohydrate and higher protein intake for strength athletes (40–48% carbohydrate, 20–26% protein, and 34% fat), stress the importance of eating natural and whole foods.

Sports nutrition experts recommend that athletes should have multiple small meals per day (five or six feedings). Traveling with snacks helps to insure that caloric needs are being met, despite unpredictable travel delays. Fresh vegetables and fruits, fruit smoothie, energy bars, nuts, bagels,and raisins are suggested to carry while traveling.


Use of food supplement for young athletes should never be encouraged, and the focus should be consuming on a nutrient-rich diet. Of the many different dietary ergogenic aids available to athletes, a very small number may enhance performance for some athletes when used in accordance with current evidence under the guidance of a well-informed professional. To enjoy all the benefits of sport, athletes should adopt specific nutrition strategies that can support good health and optimum mental and physical performance .

Many factors contribute to success in sports, including talent, motivation training and resistance to injury. When highly talented as well as trained athletes gather for competition, the margin between victory and defeat is usually small. When we give attention to every detail can make that vital difference, and nutrition is a key element of the serious athlete’s preparation.  
"You can also check interesting nutrition tips by an expert Nutritionist in Cupertino at Mor's Nutrition & More"



Quiz Section !
  1. Which of the following nutrition should comprise 45% to 65% of the total calorie intake?
     Protein  Fats  Carbohydrates  Vitamins and Minerals
  2. The athetes who are trained indoor are usually deficient of which vitamin?
     Vitamin D  Vitamin B12  Vitamin B6  Vitamin K
  3. The intake of excess of fluids lead to?
     Hemangioma  Helminthiasis  Insomnia  hyponatremia
  4. What is the main source of vitamin D?
     Exposure to Sun  Carrots  Oranges  Glucose
  5. Fruit juices does not contain?
     Fiber  Antioxidants  Minerals  Vitamins
  6. Which of the nutrient is needed for muscle building?
     CarboHydrates  Fats  Vitamins  Protein
  7. Which component helps in transporting oxygen to  cells?
     Calcium  Iron  Potassium  Phosphorus( Energy intake - energy expenditure)
  8. Which component is most important for bone health?
     Phosphorus Potassium  Iron  Calcium
  9. Energy balance=?
     Energy intake + energy expenditure  Energy expenditure - energy intake  Energy intake - energy expenditure  None
  10. What quantity of caffine is present in a can of cocacola?
     40mg  20mgl  3mg  80mg
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