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How Young Athletes Can Properly Fuel Their Bodies

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Melissa Majumdar, M.S., RD, CSOWM, LDN

National Spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

It’s common to see young girls pushing themselves to the limit to become star athletes, but they can’t achieve their goals without the right nutrition. Young athletes need to properly fuel their bodies to succeed in sports, and to continue growing and maturing.

Eating appropriate amounts of healthful foods gives girls the nutrients they need for healthy bones, increased endurance, and stronger muscles. In general, young athletes should consume three meals and one to three snacks per day to meet the physical demands of their chosen sports.

Young athletes can also benefit from individualized nutrition guidance from a registered dietitian nutritionist, especially one who specializes in sports nutrition.

Children and adolescents are at risk for dehydration and heat-related illness, especially during times of increased activity and warm weather. By the time they feel thirsty, they are already dehydrated. It’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day, whether training for or participating in a game.

To stay properly fueled and hydrated on game days:

  • Drink water throughout the day
  • Drink 16 ounces of water at least two hours before your game, 15 minutes before, and every 15-20 minutes throughout
  • Choose a sports drink for activities that last longer than 60 minutes, or if it’s a very hot day to replace electrolytes, fluid, and carbohydrates
  • Start drinking water right after the game
  • Eat a piece of fresh fruit after the game to rehydrate and refuel

Athletes rely on snacks to meet some of their daily nutritional needs, so take these as opportunities to get a boost of energy, protein, carbohydrates, and fluids.

When heading to the field, pack a cooler with ice and frozen water bottles with:    

  • Sliced oranges, melon, and peaches
  • Frozen low-fat yogurt tubes or pouches
  • Cheese sticks, nut butter, and seed butter or hummus paired with pretzels or pita chips. This carbohydrate and protein combo helps the body repair, recover, and refuel.  

Melissa Majumdar, M.S., RD, CSOWM, LDN, National Spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, [email protected]

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