3 Sports Nutrition Mistakes for Child Athletes

Twitter: @drrichardmaurer 

Nutritional needs vary little for kids and adults—therefore what works for one, works for the other. But what if it’s not working for the adults. Like the famous Hippocratic adage—Physician heal thyself, we adults could benefit from a review of the dietary needs for our optimal weight, performance and activity.

Depending upon the where we draw the “overweight” line in the sand, one-third to a whopping two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. One in ten American adults are type 2 diabetic and an astounding 35% of American adults are prediabetic of which 90% don’t even know it. American kids, age eighteen and under, are raised in the nutritional climate that has created this metabolic mess. Let me help clear the confusion and help find the healthy diet for your athletic children and the greater adult community.

Three Mistakes when feeding young (and older) athletes.

#1 – Sports drinks and sugared milk. Sports drinks are an undisputed problem—even the American Association of Pediatrics, which is historically cautious about nutritional opinions took a bold stance in 2011 to attack sports drinks similarly to sodas. But I include chocolate milk too—chocolate milk has 9-12 teaspoons of sugar in 12-ounces—equivalent to most soda. The original research that put chocolate milk on the map simply compared it to sugary sports drinks and used a small group of insanely lean, elite adult cyclists. The truth is, protein helps athletes recover—therefore any protein compared to no protein provides better workout recovery.

Solution: 99% of the time, the meal that follows the exertion delivers adequate protein and carbohydrate to recover and prepare for the next day’s activities.

#2 – Low fat diets. Low fat diets do not make leaner or better athletes. There are only three foods to make a meal: Fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Lower one and the other two go up proportionally. Low fat diets elevate the overall carbohydrate burden and promote weight gain, high blood sugar and low energy.

Solution: Literally and figuratively, keep the skin on the chicken. Add dietary fats through nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, butter and enjoy the whole fatty cuts of natural non-processed meats and fish.

#3 – Frequent meals. The recommendation to eat more than 3-times per day has only been post-1970 in America, when low-fat foods mistakenly became the federal recommendation. The failed experiment of eating more-frequent low-fat meals has helped to create the overweight, over-diabetic culture that we see today.

Solution: Each meal should have the protein, fat and carbohydrate needed to fuel four to six hours of activity without hunger. The meals that follow athletic exertion must contain adequate protein to assure a full recovery.

As an author and doctor specializing in metabolic health and recovery, I base clinical decisions on data available. But at home, with three kids, here is what we have in our kitchen – If you are in the area, swing by the office to find these three items on hand.

Whey protein powder (Jarrow): to add to smoothies in a pinch. Frozen avocados and nut or seed butters are nice fatty additions to a base such as almond milk.

Electrolyte powder (Pure Encapsulations): In the heat of summer especially, I add a scoop of my favorite low to no-sugar electrolyte mix to water bottles.

Multiple vitamin mineral (Essential Basics): My kids take the same formula I use, 1-2 capsules of a broad spectrum formula.

Clients at Dr. Maurer’s Office can use the Healthwave Resource to find some of these professional label supplements. Link to it here if you are a current or past patient at the office.

Only use iron if you know your child needs it. In my experience, child athletes, especially young women, should have their ferritin (iron) levels tested. It is a part of Dr. Maurer’s Discovery Panel