skip navigation

Sports Nutrition for Youth Athletes

By Bob Seebohar, USA Triathlon, 08/20/19, 12:00AM CDT

Share

Young athletes are great to work with as they are typically sponges for information but keep in mind that they do require slightly different methods of nutrition education and implementation than adults.

Out are the days where we assume young athletes should follow the same daily nutrition plan as their parents. Young athletes have different needs not only based on their developmental stages but also their learning preferences and environment. By recognizing some of these differences, you can better understand how to implement nutrition strategies that support youth throughout the continuum of their sport development.

Nutrition Basics

When it comes to teaching specific sports nutrition principles to younger athletes, the topics are similar to ones used with adults. There are a few differences as I will note but as a whole, nutrition should support physical training cycles as they progress through different volume and intensity cycles (otherwise known as nutrition periodization).

Frequency

Youth need to balance their blood sugar just like adults but for different reasons.  Performance in school becomes the primary purpose. The goal when teaching kids about frequency of eating is to associate changes in energy and mood with food and fluid intake. Emphasize eating every 2 - 3 hours to maintain blood sugar levels to prevent hypoglycemia and thus preventing a decrease in cognitive abilities including concentration in the classroom. Performance in sport is also important and eating frequently will assure they that have the mental and physical energy to get the most out of a practice session no matter the time of day.