Rocky Mountain Hospital fo Children - Nutrition

HealthONE Blog: Tournament Nutrition for Young Athletes

When it comes to nutrition during tournaments, eat to compete!

By Annie Hoese

RD, CSP, Registered Dietitian for HealthONE Clinic Services

Many young athletes watch what they eat. To compete in tournaments, it is even more important to monitor caloric intake and hydration for both kids and teens.

While it’s always important to maintain a healthy balance in your diet, during tournaments it is critical that athletes get the added nutrients and hydration necessary to compete at such a high level.

Tournament Fact: During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Michael Phelps consumed an average of 12,000 calories a day! *Not recommended for the average athlete.

Eat to compete means athletes must consume additional calories

Lean proteins (found in fish, chicken or turkey, lean beef and beans), complex carbohydrates (such as potatoes, corn, rice and grain products or vegetables such as green beans or broccoli), and a balance of sugars from fruits and vegetables are a winning balance for an athlete’s diet any time. When it comes to the extra nourishment needed for a high level of competition, parents and young athletes should consult their physician to decide how many extra calories are needed to fuel the additional strenuous exercise compressed into just a few days.

Young athletes often need more than just three meals a day to meet their needs. Be sure to include one to two healthy and balanced snacks into the daily routine. There is no need to purchase expensive and often unnecessary energy bars. Instead, pair a low-fat protein with a carbohydrate, such as peanut butter on crackers, fruit and nut trail mix, or a yogurt and banana. This combination will provide a quick burst of energy from the carbohydrate but still keep the athlete satisfied for several hours with the nutritious protein.

Tournament Tip: During a tournament, plan at least one team meal, these not only promote nutritious eating, but they are a great way to build team spirit.

Eat to compete means an athlete must stay well hydrated

Young athletes should avoid energy drinks, as they can actually speed up the fluid loss process. Some sports drinks and lots of water are helpful when competing in a tournament with extended periods of strenuous physical activity. Even slight dehydration can cause an increase in heart rate and core temperature, and also increase the perceived exertion level. The process of recovery is just as important as leading up to competition for young athletes. Be sure to stay well hydrated in order to recover from competitive activities and to avoid dehydration.

Recovery Tip: Chocolate milk is a great recovery drink. It contains protein, carbohydrates and some sodium, which help provide replenishment to your muscles.

Visit Rocky Mountain Youth Sports Medicine Institute for more information or to find a youth sports medicine doctor.