I am mother to 3 young & enthusiastic triathletes in training, including my 10 year old daughter who swam in her first 1km ocean swim at Forster on Sunday. Her courage and determination & the fact that she was physically capable of participating gave me more reason to smile than her crossing the line 11th out of about 60 adults & 2 other young people.
Good eating and drinking practices are one of the foundations of optimum performance. This, and certain elements that maximize performance, such as talent, training, conditioning, motivation, commitment and adequate sleep and recovery cannot be replaced by a pill, powder or potion, no matter what level of athlete you are.
Unfortunately it’s easy to become distracted and ‘caught up’ in the range of specialized sports nutrition products and supplements marketed by the multi-billion dollar supplement industry.
It is also easy to fall prey to the badgering of children & peer pressure to allow ‘treat’ foods (lollies, soft drinks, chips) to take the place of quality fuel that will support physical performance and immune systems, as well as mood, concentration and behaviour.
The key guidelines for supporting performance improvements in all athletes, but particularly our young athletes include:
- Eating regularly – a nutrient rich breakfast, lunch & dinner every day is essential. Include whole grains (cereal/bread/rice/pasta), dairy (milk/yoghurt/cheese), fruit, nuts, protein (eggs/baked beans/meat/fish) & plenty of veggies (raw & cooked). Quality between meal snacks (such as cereal, fruit & milk/yoghurt, fruit smoothies, wholegrain crackers with cheese, hommus & raw veggies are appropriate for active kids. Skipping a meal or snack is like skipping a training session.
- Drink water – unless a young athlete is training or competing in very hot conditions for over 2hrs, sports drinks are not necessary. Cold water & fruit (such as oranges or watermelon) are adequate for replacement of fluid & glucose. Sports drinks can add unwanted calories without the benefit of the other essential nutrients found in fruit.
- Fuel up before a training session with an appropriate carbohydrate snack
- Refuel after a training session with an appropriate snack or meal containing a combination of carbs, protein & fluid.
- Ensure enough down time and sleep to allow their bodies to recover and grow.
- Encourage and support their minds and spirits, as well as their bodies. Listen to them and reflect their emotions and concerns. Praise effort, determination and resilience and above all enjoyment of how they feel and what their bodies can do!