As a long-time (now retired) orthopedic surgeon, Darrin Eakins understands how important it is for athletes not only to monitor and maintain a robust exercise regimen but to pay close attention to their nutrition and eating habits.
As Eakins knows, those who put their bodies under significant physical stress each day, should always carefully consider and consume the right combination of calories, carbohydrates, protein, and water at all times.
Eakins adds that the crucial thing is that they should maintain a healthy diet. The following are some of the sports nutrition recommendations for athletes:
- They should eat a variety of foods from all food groups
- They need to eat plenty of vegetables
- Sportspeople need to avoid eating too much sugar and salt
- They should drink plenty of fluids
It‘s vital to have a balanced diet that includes all the essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals the body needs. Darrin Eakins of Wilmington, NC, explains that the goal is to provide energy for training, competition and recovery from exercise.
Sports nutrition is a very important part of the lives of young athletes. It’s crucial for sportspeople who want to maintain a healthy lifestyle, both in and out of sports. Here are some benefits of sports nutrition for young athletes:
- Maintaining normal growth rates
- Improving athletic performance
- Improving mental health
Darrin Eakins observes that during periods of growth and activity, children and athletes need extra calories to support their needs. Some studies have found that 30 kg girls playing soccer for 60 minutes can expend, on average, 270 calories. A 60 kg boy playing ice hockey for 60 minutes will expend an average of 936 calories.
Carbohydrates, Proteins, and Fats
Macronutrients are the three nutrients that provide calories and energy to the body. These are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
Proteins are one of the three macronutrients that provide energy to the body. Proteins are made up of amino acids, which are needed for the growth and repair of cells. It is found in lean meat, seeds, beans, eggs, and dairy products such as milk and cheese. They’re not the primary source of energy for light exercise or short-duration exercise. Darrin Eakins states that the liver gluconeogenic process helps maintain blood glucose levels as exercise duration rises.
Carbohydrates are another macronutrient that provides energy to the body. It’s because they contain glucose that is used as energy. They come from plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and legumes. As Darrin Eakins notes, carbohydrates contain about four kilocalories of energy per gram. Muscles and the liver store glucose as glycogen. Muscle glycogen is more readily accessible than other energy sources and releases energy more rapidly.
Fats are also a macronutrient that provides energy to the body and other essential nutrients like vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids, which help with brain function and heart health, respectively.
Vitamin D, Calcium, and Iron
Micronutrients are essential for young athletes to maintain healthy bones, muscles, and immune systems. Some micronutrients are more important than others. The most important ones include calcium, vitamin D, iron, and selenium.
Darrin Eakins says calcium is the most important one because it helps build strong bones and teeth. Among the foods and drinks that contain calcium are yogurt, milk, cheese, fortified grains, spinach, and broccoli. Vitamin D is also essential as it improves bone growth and muscle strength. Iron is also needed since it helps deliver oxygen to the body’s tissues, while selenium aids in muscle development. Lean meat and eggs are among the foods high in iron.