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 Diet & Nutrition

June 2012
Food For Your Athlete-In-Making
Kinita Kadakia
Whether it is just another active child, a potential sportsperson or an inactive but intelligent child, nutrition for each of them is well researched and it is a science in itself. Your child is never too young to start a healthy nutritious routine.

Providing adequately for the nutritional needs of athletic children is of great importance. It has a direct impact on their overall health, growth, and development, and consequently on their sporting performance. The wellnourished junior athlete will be able to play better and for longer, stay mentally alert, and recover quicker from training and competition. The active child who is not getting enough energy may become tired and lethargic, and even struggle to enjoy his/her sport.

Be it a usually active child or a kid sincerely dedicated towards sports, both require certain nutritional guidelines. Whether you are preparing breakfast for your child before school or choosing a snack for after sportspractice, it is important to make healthy choices. Every child is special and so is his/her diet.

The early years beginning from the moment of birth are the rapid growth years for the individual child. A child’s nutritional needs are therefore specific to its growth and it requires a set framework to attain peak performance and development. With the temptation and lure of the plethora of modern food choices before us, native nutrition hardly has any takers these days.

A young child’s love of a game or sport may not necessarily involve the aspiration to be a professional sportsperson. That factor comes from the parents who encourage, guide or even pressurize the child to pursue a certain sport. And it is the responsibility of the parents to provide for the child accordingly - the right and the best coach, and sport-specific nutrition to mention.

There is also the child belonging to the other category – a physically active child who takes to sports for recreation only. With the correct nutritional and fitness guidelines, this child too can be groomed to be a sportsperson, who is mentally fit and is focused on excellence.

Whether it is just another active child, a potential sportsperson or an inactive but intelligent child, nutrition for each of them is well researched and it is a science in itself. Your child is never too young to start a healthy nutritious routine. In this case, it’s never too early!

Eventually, that popular phrase holds, “You are what you eat.”

Nutritional Tips For Athletic Children
  • To ensure adequate intake of essential nutrients, encourage active children to eat a wide variety of nutritious foods.
  • Fat-reduced, high carbohydrate snacks are the best choice for active children. They can be lowfibre cereal with milk and fruit; a granola bar with curd; chicken sandwich with whole-wheat bread and so on.
  • Ensure that active children maintain a healthy body weight by balancing their energy intake with expenditure.
  • Encourage them to eat to their appetite, which will vary from day to day.
  • Take nutritious snacks to sporting events. Self-catering is wiser than relying on local canteens.
  • Children can overheat and dehydrate quickly. Offer plenty of fluids before, during and after sport.
  • Children don’t often know they are dehydrated; hence compulsive drinking of fluids is mandatory.
  • If, as parents or coaches, you are concerned about your child’s nutrition, seek professional advice from a sports nutritionist and/or sports doctor.
Kinita Kadakia is Sports Nutrition Consultant, National Cricket Academy & MEALpyramid, Mumbai.

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