Sports nutrition is complicated, especially for growing kids and teens. But, what happens when an athlete has food restrictions or needs a special diet?

In today’s video, Betsy explores the fundamentals of sports nutrition, takes a look at how food restrictions challenge the diets of young athletes, and discusses how they can still achieve top performance despite that.

When kids get into middle school or high school, the demands of their sport start to increase. The more serious they get about their sport, the more diet can have an impact on their performance.

—— Fundamentals of Sports Nutrition ——
Nutrition influences everything for an athlete from illness and injury prevention to building strength and endurance. Becoming a well-trained athlete is probably the ultimate in becoming a healthy eater.

First are complex carbohydrates. They’re the key source of energy for brain and muscle tissue. Athletes need carbs before they exercise to fill their muscle stores, they need carbohydrates during exercise to keep them going, and they need carbohydrates after they exercise to replenish the used up stores.

Protein is also essential for athletes in order to build muscle and help repair tissue. Athletes need fruits and vegetables for tissue repair and healing and injury prevention.

—— Dietary Challenges ——
Kids and teens with dietary challenges can’t always meet these needs in traditional ways. Often, they’re looking at other dietary factors that need to be put into place to help them get well. When you throw in the needs of an athlete on top of that it can get really complicated.

Athletes who have celiac disease or gluten intolerance are cutting gluten out of their diet, which eliminates a lot of options for complex carbohydrates. Additionally when they eliminate some of those foods, they also lose some of the nutrients that would naturally be there such as some of the B vitamins, which are essential for energy, metabolism, and a number of other bodily functions.

Athletes with dairy allergies lose a key source of many vital nutrients. Dairy products provide athletes not only with protein and carbs, but with calcium. Calcium is very important for bone mineralization and athletes can be at increased risk for stress fractures.

For athletes with IBS, it’s even more complicated. Often their IBS symptoms interfere with their training. Controlling their symptoms with diet modifications can restrict their intake of fruits and vegetables as part of a low FODMAPs diet.

Finally, underweight athletes are often not getting enough calories in. This is leaving them in an energy deficit and can impact their performance. They need to learn how to make sure they’re getting enough calories for their sport.

— Thriving as an Athlete ——
This all may seem very complicated but with a little education and support all young athletes can thrive. Working with a nutritionist will help ensure that their specific dietary needs are met while still giving them the nutrients they need.

If your young athlete is struggling with a food restriction and you need some dietary advice please reach out to us at Feed to Succeed. Our team can assess and provide education and support to help get them on track and at the top of their game.


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