Health and Wellness

The Right Nutrition For Children Active In Sports

Puja Sharma Vasisht
7 to 11 years

Created by Puja Sharma Vasisht
Updated on Apr 13, 2018

The Right Nutrition For Children Active In Sports

If your child is active in sports or is pursuing one seriously, he may need some additional nutrition support in his diet. Sports demand some extra care in your child’s diet. Here are some essentials nutrients that need to be amped up in his diet and some more that need to be avoided.

Essential Nutrients to Include
Fluids
When your child is active in sports, fluid/liquid is very important for him. This is because children tend to lose fluids faster than adults while exercising in the heat. So it needs to be replenished frequently in children who are active in sports.  Drinking before, during, and after exercising (or an event) is the best way to stay hydrated. (though during the physical activity, for eg: running etc., it Is advisable to have small sips of water frequently rather than gulping large amounts at one go). Water is the best choice. Fruit juice mixed with water is another refreshing drink. 
Studies show that lightly sweetened, flavored, non-carbonated beverages like coconut water do a better job than water in preventing dehydration. Give children a squeeze bottle and have them drink 50-100 ml (the intake can be increased if a very high endurance sport has been taken up) every 20 minutes to keep hydrated. But nothing beats the goodness of water as it flushes toxins out of the body, cools body temperature and contains no calories.
In case, your child is fussy about drinking water, you could flavor it lightly with a squeeze of lemon juice or add some fresh herbs to it to just delicately lift up the flavor.
Carbohydrates 
Carbohydrates are the main sources of energy for working muscles and the major fuel for the brain. Carbohydrates stores (glycogen) in the body are limited so children must replenish carbohydrate stores every day. Good sources are wholegrain pasta, chapatti, rice, breads, milk, yogurt, cereals, fruits and vegetables.
When your child is getting ready for his training or his match, ensure he has a full meal,  that is rich in carbohydrates but not heavy on stomach. A wholegrain vegetable sandwich or a mix vegetable roll/ parantha with little or no fat (depending on the age of the child) are good choices.  
Calcium 
Calcium is needed to build bones which are less likely to break under the stress and strain of heavy activity. Focus on the calcium intake of your child’s diet. You'll find calcium in dairy products, like milk, yogurt, and cheese. Other good sources include dark, green leafy vegetables and calcium-fortified products, like breakfast cereals.
Iron 
Iron is where the energy resource of the body lies. So, it's important to include iron-rich foods in your active child’s diet, such as meat, dried beans, green leafy veggies and fortified cereals. Without enough iron, your child might get tired more easily, affecting his performance or stamina for training.
Fats
 A high-fat diet is not healthy but neither is a zero-fat diet. Having some fat in the diet is important for health and is a key energy source for young athletes. Go for healthy fats from food sources such as nuts like almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds etc.

A big no
Skipping meals- Children active in sports should not be skipping meals, which can lead to low energy levels. Similarly, they should never be put on diet to reduce weight. They may take up a sport like football or gymnastics, to lose weight, if need be. It is suggested that children who are regularly playing active sports, should have small frequent meals rather than big heavy ones.

Supplements especially proteins- may cause more harm than good. While protein plays a role in building muscle, fighting infection, and provides signals and controls for tissue growth and maintenance, a high-protein diet is not recommended for athletes and replacing carbohydrates with protein can actually impair athletic performance. Also, rather than going in for supplements, try that your child gets his protein requirement from food sources. Top food sources of protein are poultry, meat, fish, cheese, yogurt, milk and beans or legumes.
Note: Too much protein may cause damage to kidneys or liver. Children active in sports need proteins according to their age related requirements like RDA. If the child’s diet alone cannot meet his protein requirement or a child is a poor eater only then you may consider milk supplements, meant specifically for children, and no protein supplements.
Carbonated/caffeinated beverages/Sports drinks- should also be avoided. Carbonated/caffeinated beverages act as diuretics and cause the kidneys to lose water than retain. This leads to dehydration instead of rehydration. Similarly sports and energy drinks are not only loaded with sugar and empty calories but may also have some stimulants harmful for the children. 

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| May 02, 2018

Very informative tips u always given us for our children's.. Thanku so much for all d informations. I always use immuno boosters for making my kid more active. I also recommended all d mothers to use it.

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| Apr 14, 2018

how to remove obesity .....thanks for this blog

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| Nov 12, 2017

Very informative and I like the way you have written it, plz write about obesity in kids and diet for them as well.

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| Oct 06, 2017

very informative article

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| Oct 06, 2017

very informative article

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| Jun 21, 2017

Thanks for an article. Do u have all alternatives or more options for each category ?Please share ur website link .

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| Jun 21, 2017

Thanks for an article. Do u have all alternatives or more options for each category ?Please share ur website link .

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| Jun 03, 2017

very informative and helpful . can you please more vegetarian high protein sources

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| May 30, 2017

d blog was nice & informative but what r fortified cereals???? please clarify

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| Apr 12, 2017

Thank u

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| Apr 12, 2017

thanks for ur information.

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| Apr 06, 2017

Thq u very much for your suggestion

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| Sep 04, 2016

Thank you for this article ....I am doing same thing with my son . but looking for some more options ..for fussy eater .Thank you once again it will be a great help

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| Nov 25, 2015

@Hetal, Hi, for alternatives to milk you may read my blog on our website. Alternatives to milk is considered because children sometimes don't take the desired intake. Quinoa, chia seeds can be once in a while incorporated in the diet but why do you want to replace them with regular staples like wheat flour, rice, bajra, ragi, oats etc,?

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| Nov 24, 2015

Hi Puja, we are all kind of aware of the different categories carbs, proteins, iron, etc that we all require in the body. The list above goes for all kids not necessary only active kids. I was wondering if you have a more exhaustive list of foods under each category with alternatives like if a child hates Milk, what can it be substituted with - Soy Milk or... ? Or new grains available in the market like quinoa, chia seeds, etc how one can incorporate these in the diet.

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| Nov 17, 2015

My daughter all of 9 is a budding tennis player and these are the exact same things i have been following. It helps when there is a reiteration. Thanks for the article.

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| Oct 11, 2015

Thnq so much for information ..my son is a football player n doing gymnastic too. These information would be very helpful for me.

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