Nutrition for Young Athletes

Do you know the four objectives of the nutrition for young athletes?

The Four Dietary Objectives

The most often considered aspects are growth and performance. The third, all over the news in the summer, is proper hydration and the fourth aspect of nutrition for young athletes that should not be neglected, boosting immunity.

Science has shown that both by diet and supplements it is possible to increase immunity. Interestingly, one immunity booster will at the same time increase performance strength 13 to 15%. More on this at the bottom of this page.

Why Is Immunity Important for Athletes?

Why consider immunity? Remember the November 2009 stories on the news about a young athlete sidelined with H1N1 Swine Flu. Even worse, a high school cheerleader who was disabled by the vaccine. Both lives will be changed forever.

Pushing the body to its limits while it is also in growth and development requires looking beyond athletic performance. Pushing young bodies to the limit pushes the immune system to the limit.Young athletes are at greater risk.

The Four Foundations of Nutrition for Young Athletes

  • Proper Hydration
  • Fueling Athletic Activities
  • Building Blocks of Growth
  • Potentiating Immunity

More is required than just eating a well balanced diet. More is necessary than maintaining proper hydration. Young bodies need a diet that will help fuel the athletic activities, provide the building blocks of growth and development, and boost immunity as part of nutrition for young athletes.

Healthy Hydration

Proper nutrition for young athletes includes hydration.

Failure to maintain fluid balance can result in poor athletic performance.

This can and has resulted in illness and death. Young athletes are at greater risk than adults for several reasons.

Young athletes...

  • have underdeveloped ability to sweat
  • more easily absorb heat
  • produce more heat
  • usually do not consume enough liquids in proportion to their needs

Because of these reasons, it is necessary to encourage frequently rehydrate, even if the young athletes deny that they are thirsty.

There are no age related guidelines for nutrition for young athletes. Most guidelines as of May 2009 are based on adult needs. None the less, there is a need for proper hydration.

It is agreed that sports drinks may be more beneficial than just water. However because often they are designed for adults, caution is encouraged. Some choose to mix the drinks 50 / 50 with filtered water.

Note: One sport drink company used to make the claim that sport drinks are better than water. One even went so far as to say that their product was absorbed as fast as water. There is one problem with their study establishing their claim. The fluid was instilled in the jejunum via a feeding tube, bypassing the stomach. So, had the stomach acids and fluids been added, there is a good chance the outcome would have been different.

What sports drinks do that water cannot, is provide carbohydrate energy for the athletic muscles. They also can encourage you to drink enough fluid to avoid dehydration. The addition of carbohydrates and other electrolytes could slow down the absorption when compared to water.

Sport drinks have a few risks of adverse side effects compared to water, which has none. if consumed in proper quantities. This leaves the question, is it is worth paying the price for a bottle of sport drink?


Nutrition for young athletes includes the need for more calories and carbohydrates than those who lead a more sedentary lifestyle. The requirements can be 10 to 15 percent more calories depending on the type of activity, the intensity, how often and how long they are active.

Note: There is no scientific evidence to support either carbohydrate loading or increased protein intake in the nutrition for young athletes. Numerous nutrition tips for young athletes will have all kind of recommendations. The reality is, according to PubMed, there is no high level study saying what will or will not help, with a few exceptions noted below.

Also Note: Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, May, 2009 in an article Pediatric Sports Nutrition: An Update added the following...

Creatine use, although common among youth, is not recommended as part of nutrition for young athletes. Adequate hydration is essential to optimal performance. Consumption of iron-rich foods should be encouraged, as depleted iron stores are common in young athletes.

Muscle Fuel

Carbohydrates are the fuel that powers the bodies of young athletes. There are two basic types of carbohydrates, simple, complex. Some of the complex have more fiber than others. The complex ones like fruits, vegetables and whole grains, are the best. These need to be consumed on a daily basis. In addition to the right amount in relationship to the exercise period.

Simple Carbs: Simple carbs: Sugars, candy and some fruits.

These take minutes or less to be absorbed.

Complex Carbohydrates: Oatmeal, potatoes, pastas, rice, bread, unprocessed whole grain cereals. These provide long term energy for the day and for activity.

Most vegetables also provide considerable amounts of fiber.

Rebuilding With Protein

Proteins are the building blocks to build and rebuild new muscle. Proteins are also the building blocks of red blood cells. More importantly than how much protein intake is, would be varying the type and avoiding chemical additives that can act like neuro-excytotoxins such as monosodium glutamate.

Also, avoiding more basic chemicals in meats like ammonia is important.

Only Once Per Week

Only eat each food of any kind once in a given week.

Simply vary the food you eat, eating a balance diet of various foods but only one of each that day and no more throughout the week. This suggestion will take considerable planning and careful thought.

As noted above, there is no scientific evidence about how much and what kind of nutrients are best for nutrition for young athletes. There are also no high level studies to indicate this following suggestion will improve athlete performance. However, the roots of this suggestion are in both dieting for optimal benefit and allergy treatment / prevention.

The once a week rule is simple but hard to follow. Never eat any food more than once per week. So if Monday is banana day, then yes, you may have no bananas till anytime after the following Monday.

Sound crazy. This goes for all foods. If you have a whole grain cereal today, there should be none for the next several days. Milk on your cereal? No milk for you for seven days. Get your calcium from other sources.

Again, there is not a lot of science on this. But the anecdotal evidence is interesting, even fascinating.

The reason is simple. When you get all the nutrients from a certain food, your body says it needs no more. So excess is either stored or wasted. Here is where it gets interesting. You cannot overdose on the vitamins in foods when consumed as foods. However supplements can be overdosed and even make you sick.

So when you only eat one food of each kind a day, your body gets all the plant based chemicals, vitamins and minerals out of the food. The next day and next set of foods have a different set of vitamins and the body will suck every single one out.

Vary the diet and you get the maximum vitamin, mineral and chemical benefit from every single food.

There is still a need to have a balanced diet to maintain the optimal nutrition for young athletes. There is still a need for calcium rich foods, vegetables and the like. Just one of any kind in one day and not for another week.

Hey, if your a parent, you may find this to be a diet that will help you improve your health and even lose weight.

Preworkout and Pre-Performance Fueling

As important is being well fed is being properly fed. Timing is essential.

Carbohydrates need to be consumed from 2 to 4 hours before practice or competition.

Foods are processed by the stomach in 2 to 6 hours. Carbs are at the low end of the scale. They need to pass through the stomach, they need to be absorbed to be usable as fuel prior to work out or competition.

How Much

There is no scientific basis for saying how much to eat. Such a recommendation would require age, size and weight considerations to be accurate.

Until age-specific research is available, balance should dictate the diet. Remember, the size of the stomach is about the size of a clinched fist.

With out science to say how much, we will leave this part for good sense and practical wisdom. Every body is different and everybody is different. When considering nutrition for young athletes, following simple principles is the most important thing that can be done.

The connection with nutrition and performance does not stop there. Nutrition can do much more.

Boost Your Glutathione for Optimal Health and Strength

Boosting glutathione will not only increase strength by 13 to 15 percent, it will also boost immunity.

What about boosting immunity and improve strength in athletes at the same time. Oh yes, some studies even say this improves cognitive abilities. That mean better grades and smarter athletic prowess. Note that it is not the supplement that boosts strength, rather the glutathione that does this. The supplement has been shown to boost glutathione.

The studies say that this is accomplished by boosting your glutathione. There are several ways to do this.

The first and most obvious would be to eliminate those foods that deplete glutathione in the body. Avoid foods with MSG. Avoid aspartame, Nutrasweet, and saccharin and Splenda. Avoid fluoride in water and avoid chlorinated water.

Avoid fast foods as they often have many chemicals that deplete glutathione.

In addition to eliminating the glutathione reducing chemicals and toxins, eat a diet rich in glutathione boosting cysteine and glutathione co-factors.

Additionally, there are supplements that can help boost glutathione. Although some will promote NAC for this, many peer reviewed studies discourage using NAC in young ones. One of the more popular brands of GSH boosting supplements even says it is not for those under 18.

There is a safe cysteine supplement that can be used as part of the nutrition for young athletes. It is listed in the Physicians Desk Reference. It is also listed in the Pharmacist Red Book. Check it out for yourself.

Glutathione Boosting Diet

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