Everybody wants to win - it's only natural. But while winning is important, when it comes to young athletes development is the primary goal. The good news is that victory - in more ways than one - can and will take place when the child's development is put above all else. That includes properly developing their bodies and minds as well as their skills on the field.

Eating and drinking right is where it all begins. As a coach, as one of the adults these young athletes look up to, MAKE SURE TO STRESS THE IMPORTANCE OF WATER, not sugary sports drinks.

The Scary Truth

Despite claims from sports and energy drink companies that they will help "make the most out of your workout" and allow athletes to achieve peak performance, don't buy into the hoopla.

  • Ever 12 ounce serving of Gatorade, for instance, contains 21 grams of sugar. (CVD).
  • Sugary drinks, in addition to increasing the likelihood of developing type 2 Diabetes, also leads to severe tooth decay in children..
  • Sports drinks contain calories, resulting in these drinks actually contributing to a young athlete gaining weight.
  • The extra sodium in sports drinks could lead to high blood pressure.
  • "The truth is this: drink when you are thirsty and don’t waste your money or calories on sports drinks—choose water instead. Sports drinks are flavored beverages that contain carbohydrates (usually sugar) and minerals such as sodium and potassium. Those minerals are generally referred to as electrolytes."
    Harvard Medical School

Young Athletes Game Day Nutrition

Eating right on gameday is your athlete's secret weapon for top-notch performance, whatever the sport. Here's a sample game day nutrition plan:

  • Pre-game breakfast. Gather together the family for a pre-game breakfast about three hours before the event. Serve sliced and lightly grilled potatoes paired with scrambled eggs and fruit such as berries along with calcium-fortified orange juice or fat-free milk for a nutritious pre-game meal.
  • Don't light-load or skip lunch. Many student athletes compete after school making lunch an essential fuel source. Lunch should be hearty and represent as many food groups as possible, including whole grains, lean protein, fruit, vegetables and low-fat dairy.
  • During the game/practice. Make sure your child keeps hydrated before, during and after practices and competitions. Dehydration results when your child athlete fails to adequately replace fluid lost through sweating. Dehydration that exceeds 2 percent body weight loss harms exercise performance, so make sure your child is well hydrated throughout the game with small amounts of water. Remind your child to replace fluid losses after exercise with lots of water. Also look to foods such as bananas, potatoes and fat-free or low-fat yogurt or milk. They contain potassium and carbohydrates which are important to replenish after exercise.
  • Post-practice or afternoon game snack. The hours after practice or a weekday competition may necessitate snacking before your family dinner. Make sure to have pre-prepared snacks ready when your kids arrive home hungry from a tough after-school practice or game. This can include sliced fresh fruit, low-fat yogurt and smoothies.
  • Post-game family dinner. For a tasty and filling post-game family dinner, include all five food groups — protein, grains, vegetables, fruit and dairy. Serve baked or broiled lean cuts of meat such as chicken breast, salmon or tuna. Include whole grains, for example, whole-wheat pasta with a low-fat tomato or cheese sauce. Toss in vegetables or include a side green salad. Then, complete your meal with fruit for dessert, such as baked apples or pears accompanied by a glass of low-fat or fat-free milk. Or create an instant yogurt parfait with layers of low-fat vanilla yogurt, fresh, frozen or canned fruit, and crunchy whole-grain cereal.

Information taken from Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

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