Basic sports nutrition for young athletes

It’s been a couple of weeks since I did a presentation for the young sprinters at Edinburgh athletic club so I thought I’d share some of the main points. It was actually quite tricky deciding what to say as I had no idea what kind of basic knowledge they had, but I took them some homemade granola bars to keep them occupied. I was taught nothing at PE school about sports nutrition and some basic nutrition at Home Ec so I think where kids are learning these days is through their sports teams.

I started with the basic carbohydrate, protein and fat as macronutrients and steered towards types of carbohydrate for energy, protein for recovery, why fat is needed in the diet and timings for these intakes. Many of the kids compete away from home so we chatted about what to take with them and when to eat. I think many kids learn on the job so to speak, practicing what they can and can’t eat during competitions away. But what they don’t learn is why they need to eat what and when they do, which is ultimately going to help them later in their sports careers should they choose to pursue one. Learning where to get good quality forms of protein and why it is important and the difference between simple and complex carbohydrates will help their performance in the future.

The age they are now however (12 ish), just needs knowledge of when to eat before and after training and competitions to avoid stomach issues and staying hydrated. Children of this age do not need sports drinks, especially when their training sessions are just over an hour and it should not be encouraged. They should be encouraged to drink when they need to or every 15 minutes or so to stay hydrated. Just keep an eye on those who use regular water breaks as an excuse for a rest!

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