Knight Athletic News
Encouraging Good Nutrition in
We encourage our children to participate in sports for a number of reasons. Hopefully, the #1 reason is to provide children an opportunity to have fun and just play. But finger-painting, playing video games, and building snowmen all do that. Participating in youth and high school sports also builds healthy habits for young people as they grow into adults. Among those habits is a balanced diet to support sustained physical exercise.
The word "diet" gets thrown around a lot in our culture, and usually refers to a concerted effort to lose weight. But in reality, whatever we eat is our diet. Young people are at a critical point in their lives when the habits they are forming will determine the kind of nutritional patterns they will follow in their adult lives. As coaches, it is important to coach the whole athlete, which includes making recommendations for healthy eating habits. As Champion Sports Parents, we must ensure our children lead a healthful lifestyle that will optimize sports performance and help players develop positive lifelong healthful habits. In addition to the plethora of nutritional resources available today, we recommend the following measures targeting young athletes' nutritional habits:
- Young people are still growing, and should eat accordingly. Eat a diet rich in vitamins and minerals that foster healthy growth.
- Athletes require more calories than non-athletes. Make sure athletes are eating enough, and gaining energies for complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and unsaturated fats.
- Optimize athletic performance by preparing for competition with a balanced, energy filled meal.
- Encourage healthy snacking. Smaller meals help maintain a sustained energy level.
- Be wary of athletes who are taking "healthy" nutrition to an extreme. Be on the lookout for excessive talk about food, or accelerated weight loss (especially in girls).
A healthy "relationship" with food is crucial in young people. It is important to emphasize food as the fuel for a healthy lifestyle, rather than something that needs to be feared or taken in excess. Emphasizing the utilitarian nature of food will help children respect food as a means to an end, and not as a vehicle for indulgence or as a foe in the pursuit of healthy living.
Coaches must also recognize the extreme power that an over-emphasis on food may have. Putting too much stress on nutrition may cause athletes to over-analyze their own eating habits, and possibly acquire eating disorders. Stress that food can and should be a good thing that your body needs, but a healthy relationship with food should be able to be self-regulated. Athletes who eat healthily should ideally be able to listen to their bodies.