Understanding your Athlete Child’s Nutritional Requirements
By Sujatha S, RD/Nutritionist, Sano Holistic Nutrition Clinic, Chennai
If you have enrolled your child into some sports activity and s/he is taking it seriously, you can rest assured you’ve made a worthy investment. But that is just the beginning of the story. Supporting a young athlete doesn’t stop with enrolling them into their favourite sport. Besides developing requisite skills for the sport, there is a huge responsibility in how parents help their child manage all the elements impacting an athlete’s performance – including diet, rest, and psychological well-being.
Some important pointers:
1. Do not force-feed your child. Often, parents think, they need to feed the child everything possible. Instead, educate the child about good food habits and allow him/her enough space to choose the best kind of foods that can help the child improve in the sport.
2. Increase nutrient intake. Ensure you include a variety of whole foods daily to help meet the child’s nutritional needs. To ensure your children receives all the necessary nutrients in their daily meal, you can also opt for home fortification products such as Nu-Shakti Power Mix for rice and atta. These fortified foods increase the micronutrient value of home-cooked staple foods without altering their taste.
3. Carbohydrates are not fattening. Carbohydrates are the most preferred source of fuel for exercise. Ensure your child doesn’t leave for training on an empty stomach. A carbohydrate-rich snack would help the child kick-start the training and also sustain energy levels. But make sure s/he only consumes a light snack since workouts/training after a heavy meal is not advisable.
4. Stay hydrated for optimal performance. Ensure your child develops the habit of sipping of water regularly throughout the day. Also, pack enough fluids to be consumed during practice. The amount of fluids will vary depending on the intensity and duration of the session. If the training session exceeds an hour, plain water won’t suffice in replenishing mineral loss; it is important the child carries an electrolyte drink too.
5. Proteins are vital for boosting post-training recovery as well as muscle-and-bone strength. Ensure all the major meals contain a source of good-quality protein – milk, dairy products, eggs, meat, chicken and fish. Pulses, legumes, nuts, oilseeds and varieties of peas are also good sources of plant protein. Eggs or milk can be used as a quickly absorbable source of protein in the post-training snack to support recovery.
6. Adequate rest is essential for proper recovery. Having foods such as milk, bananas, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, kiwi, etc. before bed can improve the quality of sleep.
7. A bigger body frame doesn’t necessarily mean a higher fat percentage. A thin frame does not mean the child is weak. Kindly go for a body composition test and approach a professional to plan your child’s nutrition appropriately. The nutritionist will also be proficient in identifying and correcting nutritional deficiencies with appropriate supplements and fortifiers as per requirement.
Behind the increasing number of children playing sports across the country, parents have a huge responsibility in maximizing the child’s progress. Therefore, ensure you make informed decisions in becoming a winning parent.