Sportspersons are very special people no matter if they are playing for the country or for themselves. So, to achieve the optimum level of physical strength, they must take a special diet. The food and liquids taken by athletes of any age have a major impact on their physical strength/ stamina. Food provides energy for exercising muscles and nutrients essential for growth and for the immune system. Well, in this post I will be covering Diet for Junior Athletes.

Sports Coaches are being frequently questioned by the parents about what are the best food and drinks for kids to boost their stamina and performance so that their child can outshine in the field of sports.

So, this post is for all those Moms whose children indulge in any sports activities for 2-3 hours daily.

Sports Nutrition for Junior Athletes aged 7 to 12 years:

1. Carbohydrates –

Carbohydrates are essential in the diet for Junior athletes for building muscles and gaining substantial energy. Approximately 55% of a junior athlete’s total daily calories should come from carbohydrate as it is the preferred fuel for the athlete’s performance.

Foods that are rich in carbohydrates are bread, cereal products, pasta (the original one), rice, fruits, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, starchy vegetables (corns, pumpkins, potatoes), calcium-rich dairy food i.e. yogurt, soy milk, cheese, etc.

2. Proteins –

Encourage junior athletes to include protein-rich food in their diet as it is necessary for building, maintaining, and repairing muscle and other body tissue. Protein provides essential amino acids to grow muscles.

Some protein-rich foods are Yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs, milk, chickpeas, kidney beans, fish chicken breast, lentils, green peas, mixed seeds (sunflower seeds, sesame, pumpkin, and poppy seeds), Quinoa (these are sprouted seeds which nearly has doubled protein content as much as in other grains and contain all 9 amino acids that our body need to build muscles).

  • Nuts

We know that nuts are full of healthy fats, protein, fiber, and vitamin E. You can use nuts to garnish the top of yogurt or cereal, or you can just have a  handful of nuts daily. You can also carry some nuts like almonds, cashews, and walnuts in your gym bag as a quick and tasty snack.

  • Milk

We all know that milk is very essential for building the body as it is a good source of calcium, protein and potassium. All these beneficial nutrients are present in all varieties of milk with a difference in the amount of fat contained in the milk. It is preferred to have whole milk as they have to work harder to meet their daily nutritional needs.

  • Cheese

You can easily pack cheese in tiffins as this is a quick and easy snack or you can add cheese in pasta and sandwiches for your kids. Cheese is rich in calcium, and protein.

  • Yogurt

Yogurt is also a good source of calcium and protein and adds a good amount of yogurt to the diet as it is a good source of fulfilling the amount of protein in the diet.

A word of caution: Moms you need to monitor your young athlete’s intake of proteins. Because less intake can lead to its deficiency and more intake can lead to dehydration, weight gain and calcium loss.

3. Iron –

Moms keep a constant check on iron content also as its role is to carry oxygen to all different parts of the body.

Iron-rich foods are meat, chicken, dried fruits, and green leafy vegetables.

  • Seeds

Seeds are also full of fiber, magnesium, and vitamin E. You can have seeds on a daily basis if your child athlete is allergic to nuts. 

  • Ready-to-eat Cereal

Cereals give full nutrition for athletes like folic acid, iron, calcium, and vitamins A and E, which makes the cereals a good and healthy source of nutrients. You can give your kid a bowl full of cereal for breakfast, snack, or can even give in at dinner. Always prefer light sugar in cereal for its best results.

  • Beans

Beans are considered as the Magical ingredient in building the body stronger. Beans are full of zinc, magnesium, fiber, protein, and iron that is a perfect fit into your athlete’s kid diet plan.

  • Green Leafy Vegetables

Green veggies are a good source of iron and calcium like you can have spinach, and collard greens. You can intake these leafy veggies with vitamin C-rich veggies or with meat to increase the absorption of iron.

4. Dairy products –

It provides 10 essential vitamins and minerals to support young athletes’ growth and training demands. It includes all good nutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, glow nutrients such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and more.

5. Sports Drinks –

They are equally important as the diet is as these drinks provide the energy. Diluted juice is another option but avoids sugary drinks which can upset the stomach. Soft drinks which have glycogen can be considered a good option. You can also give ORS solution as it is full of electrolytes and fluids and replenishes the body well.

6. Calcium and Vitamin D –

As we all know calcium helps in building strong bones, teeth and for actual absorption of calcium the body requires Vitamin D (which can be naturally gained from sun exposure by walking in the early morning sunshine for 5 to 10 minutes).

Calcium-rich foods are all dairy products, green leafy vegetables like broccoli, kale, etc.

Vitamin D rich foods include fatty fish like Tuna and salmon, dairy products, orange juice, soy milk and cereals, cheese, eggs yolks etc.

  • Milk

We all know that milk is very essential for building the body as it is a good source of calcium, protein and potassium. All these beneficial nutrients are present in all varieties of milk with a difference in the amount of fat contained in the milk. It is preferred to have whole milk as they have to work harder to meet their daily nutritional needs.

  • Orange Juice

If your kid athlete is aged 7 – 18 years then you can give him one glass of orange juice to your athlete boy or girl as orange juice fulfills the need for calcium and vitamin D in the body.

  1. Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins C, E, A, and potassium which help to make the immune system, even more, stronger and healthy.

Certain foods that Young Athletes should be specifically eating?

  • Poultry or fish – These form a great lean source of protein containing all essential amino acids essential for performing vital functions like muscle maintenance etc.
  • Milk, yogurt, or cheese – a great source of calcium or complete protein essential for muscle recovery, etc.
  • Banana, pomegranate, oranges, etc. – fruits are essential as they help in reducing inflammation and muscle recovery
  • Corn, peas, potatoes, etc. – starchy vegetables are essential for an athlete as they provide constant energy to the body

Ideas for healthy snacks and lunches to fuel an athlete’s performance

  • Granola bars- This snack is a great source of fibre and protein essential in muscle maintenance, etc. fulfilling the cravings without deviating from a healthy diet and is a great source of providing energy food for kids or energy snacks for kid athletes.
  • Chicken breast with rice- A great meal packed with protein and carbohydrates, which are really essential for an athlete or person with so much physical activity.
  • Popcorn– Popcorn is the healthiest snack lowering risk of heart diseases, diabetes, etc.

How to develop healthy eating habits?

  • Instead of 3 strict meals, eat 5 to 6 balanced meals including snacks
  • Control portion size or count calories by monitoring the food labels etc.
  • Avoid foods containing empty calories or no nutrition 

Benefits of eating a healthy diet: 

A balanced diet provides vital vitamins and minerals vital in boosting immunity, health development,  protection against diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, some form of cancer, help in a lower risk of injury, and performing better when it comes to athletes.

Shake ideas for Kids:

  • Kale banana smoothie- this combination is filled with calcium, vitamin A, K, and will provide instant energy to kids or junior athletes
  • Papaya smoothie–  as papaya is rich in vitamin c, vitamin a, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, this smoothie is a great option for kid athletes
  • Berry and tofu shake- this shake will provide antioxidants, vitamins, and protein making a great protein shake for kid athletes 

Energy requirement for Kids:

Energy requirement for a kid athlete keeps increasing with age for ex- an athlete of 9-13 years of age require around 2000-2600 calories which increases to around 2800-3200 calories in 14-18 years of age.

In short-Major Diet for Junior Athletes:

Diet for Junior Athletes

Some Important things to remember:

Before practicing any sport –

  • There should be a gap of one hour between the food intake and practicing any sport.

During practicing any sport –

  • Junior athletes should replenish lost hydration stores during and after a competition or a heavy workout. Basically, water is required to hydrate junior athletes for the activities that last less than 60 minutes.
  • However, during longer activities, sports beverages that provide 6%–8% carbohydrate will help rehydrate and replenish electrolyte stores in them.

After practicing any sport –

  • Recovery drinks, protein bars and fruits like bananas include potassium prevents muscle cramps and helps in recovering the body after a workout.
  • After practicing the game Immediately give your child proteins i.e. eggs (boiled ones) or chocolate milk that helps to relax blood vessels and help oxygen-rich blood to reach the muscles.

If their nutritional needs are not fulfilled children will show signs of:

  • Fatigue
  • Lack of muscle build-up
  • Weaken immune system

Thus, all Junior Athletes need to eat balanced meals and have a healthy diet.

Note: You can also give protein powder to children such as GRD Protein, Protein X, etc. after consulting your doctor. But as per my opinion, it’s always better giving direct natural protein (in the form food).

Happy Parenting with Budding Star!

Are you expecting? Click here to know the Diet when you are Pregnant.

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About Bharti Sapra

Bharti Sapra is an entrepreneur and mother of two angels. Her interests are reading , writing ,travelling and cooking . She loves to spend time with kids. Her mantra of life is "Always be happy and healthy".

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