Sports Nutrition for Young Athletes

Nutrition is an important part of any athlete’s life. Young athletes are often confused as what to consume to meet their body’s requirements for optimal athletic performance. To optimize performance, young athletes need to understand what to consume before, during and after an endurance exercise. 

REQUIREMENTS

Carbohydrates are the most important fuel source for athletes, even for young athletes, because they provide glucose which is used as energy. Glucose is the easiest and more readily available source of energy. Carbohydrates should compromise 45%-65% of a young athlete’s daily total caloric intake[1]. Protein builds and repairs muscle, and it is a critical macronutrient for an athlete’s recovery. It should compromise approximately 10%-30% of their caloric intake[1]. Along with the adequate amount of macronutrients, fluids are critical in any athlete’s regimen. Together, energy, protein, and fluids, play an integral role in helping a young athlete achieve the athletic outcome they desire.

CARBOHYDRATES

Muscle glycogen stores provide a fuel source for brain and muscles during endurance exercise. In young endurance athletes, a low carbohydrate diet results in greatly reduced liver and muscle glycogen stores, which can result in severely limiting their performance[2]. Hence, adequate intake of carbohydrates during an endurance activity is important as it has a number of performance benefits like glycogen sparing, preventing hypoglycaemia and delaying hunger. To maintain carbohydrate stores in the body during an endurance exercise it is recommended to consume an energy drink or gel like Unived’s Elite Drink Mix and Unived’s Elite Gel (consuming caffeine is not recommended for young athletes).

FLUIDS

Fluids, particularly water, are important nutrients for athletes. Athletic performance can be affected by what, how much and when an athlete drinks. Fluids help regulate body temperature and replace sweat losses during exercise. Environmental temperature and humidity affect how much an athlete sweats and how much fluid intake is required. Hotter temperatures and higher humidity environments like Mumbai, make a person sweat more; thus, more fluid and electrolytes are needed to maintain an adequate salt and water balance. Imbalances in water and salts can lead to dehydration, which can decrease performance and put young athletes at risk for heat exhaustion or a heat stroke. To overcome dehydration consuming an electrolyte sports drink like Unived’s Elite Drink Mix is recommended. If an athlete’s sweat rate is extremely high, they can consider taking additional amount of electrolytes by consuming salt caps. 

PROTEIN

Protein, commonly known as the recovery food, should be consumed within 20 minutes of exercise. For intense endurance activities, the combination of carbohydrates and protein is essential for optimal recovery. While protein helps with protein synthesis and addresses muscle repair, carbohydrates replenish muscles with glycogen. Studies have demonstrated that a ratio of 4:1 carbs to protein is the ideal recovery ratio. Having a quicker recovery, allows young athletes to get back to training faster and fresher.

Additionally, consuming solid food, like bars or real food for recovery, can cause stomach distress, as the nutrients in these foods cannot be broken down immediately by the body. Because the body has to work extra hard to digest solid food, ingesting a liquid recovery mix which can easily be absorbed by the gut is ideal. Unived’s Elite Recovery Mix offers a concentrated and convenient source of all the nutrients needed for recovery. These nutrients are delivered to the body in a manner where they can be instantly broken down and utilized by the body. Unived’s Elite Recovery Mix contains carbohydrates and proteins in the ratio of 4:1 along with electrolytes, vitamin D3, vitamin K2-7, vitamin C, KSM 66TM (ashwagandha extract) and curcumin extract for muscle repair, muscle building, lowering fatigue, and eliminating cramping.

For young athletes, having an adequate diet and supplement support during training and competition, yields positive results. It is particularly important to ingest the right amount of carbohydrates, proteins and fluids consumed before, during and after an endurance activity to achieve optimal athletic performance.

References:

  1. LAURA K PRUCELL. Sports nutrition for young athletes. Paediatr Health Care. 2013 Apr; 18(4): 200–202.
  2. W J Evans, V A Hughes. Dietary Carbohydrates and endurance exercise. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 41, Issue 5, May 1985, Pages 1146-1154.

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