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Eating Healthy for Sports Athletes
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If you play sports, you need equipment, right? Would you consider playing baseball without a mitt? Would you play Soccer without your shin guards? The answer is no. Would you consider playing sports without the most important equipment of all - a body that is fully fueled and ready to go? Unfortunately there are many kids who do just that. You need to eat healthy and fuel up before your activity with the right types of food and when you eat those foods.
Timing is everything. You can eat healthy, but if you eat too much before exercising, you will feel sluggish and could possibly have an upset stomach or cramping in your stomach. On the other hand, if you don't eat at all before exercising, you could feel weak, faint or tired. To eat healthy and best prepare for your day, it is always smart to eat a healthy breakfast. If you are going to eat a big healthy meal, eat it at least three to four hours before exercising. If you only have two hours before your game, eat a smaller healthy meal. You also need to eat after you exercise to help your muscles recover.
So what should you eat? Carbohydrates are the chief source of energy for your body so you should eat healthy foods that are high in carbohydrates but low in fat. Your body will use the carbohydrates for energy. Some good carbohydrate sources include cereals, breads, vegetables, pasta, rice and fruit. Proteins and fats are best eaten after exercise to restore your muscles. Some examples of high protein foods are meat, dairy products and nuts.
Drinking water is also important. Unless you are strenuously exercising for more than 60 minutes water is preferred over sports drinks such as Gatorade. To stay healthy and well hydrated during exercise, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that you:
Everybody is an individual and you need to let your body be your guide to eating which healthy foods and when. Pay attention to what feels best for you. It might be a good idea to keep a food journal for a few days to see how much you are eating and if you are getting all of the nutrients that you need.
- Drink enough fluid to balance your daily fluid losses. You'll likely need more on days when the temperature and humidity are high.
- Drink roughly 2 to 3 cups (0.5 to 0.8 liters) of water before your workout.
- Drink roughly 2 to 3 cups (0.5 to 0.8 liters) of water after your workout for every pound (0.5 kilogram) of weight you lose during the workout.
- Drink about 1 cup (0.25 liters) of water every 15 to 20 minutes during your workout. You may need more the larger your body is or the warmer the weather is.
Two important nutrients that kids need are calcium and iron. Calcium helps build strong bones and iron will give you energy. There is a lot of calcium in dairy products, like milk, yogurt, and cheese. Other good sources include dark, green leafy vegetables and calcium-fortified products, like orange juice.
Iron can be found in foods such as meat, dried beans, and fortified cereals. Remember, without enough iron, you might get tired more easily.
Make sure not to diet. When you are a kid athlete your body needs every chance to grow to the size it was intended to be. If anyone like a coach or teammate suggests that you change your diet to put on or takeoff weight, talk to your parents or another trusted adult. Also avoid any diet supplements and aids. These could do damage to a growing body. Eating healthy is not wrong at any age. When you are a kid athlete you are often busy and have a hard time finding time to eat healthy. Talk to your parents and see what ideas you could come up with. Having a cooler with fresh fruit, water and a sandwich on whole grain bread in the car is better than driving through a fast food chain. Plan ahead, but it will be worth it.
Remember to take care of the most important equipment of all - your body. If you do, you will perform your best and more importantly feel your best. Eat healthy!!
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