Youth Athletes: Nourishing Young Bodies and Minds

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Abstract

Youth participation in individual and team sports is high, yet little is known about the nutritional needs of children or adolescents who compete in sports. Parents and volunteer coaches are responsible for nutrition and hydration advice for youth athletes and it can be woefully incorrect. There are no predictive equations for energy needs, and research on protein intake for muscle growth and repair is conducted on adults. Currently, the best we can do is adapt nutrition guidelines for adults to young athletes, using growth and development as a guide for monitoring success with the implementation of nutrition strategies. Hydration strategies are critical for young athletes as heat illnesses occur more frequently in this group compared with adults. Young athletes are not immune to messages on enhancing muscle development, and use of performance-enhancing substances is higher than previously thought. Strategies for nutrition education for young athletes are included, based on psychosocial development.

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