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When it comes to sports and activities, what a child eats can affect performance. Sports nutrition focuses on not only on good eating habits, but also on what an athlete might need before exercising and after as a part of recovery.
Of course, sports nutrition goes beyond simply what you eat. When you eat is important, too.
Understanding the right balance and timing of taking in carbohydrates, proteins and hydration can help athletes play their best. Eating a healthy diet ensures that athletes are getting all the nutrients their bodies need to produce energy to perform and to keep muscles, bones, joints and tendons healthy.
Parents and kids should know the basics of sports nutrition and understand how supplements work and which products are beneficial. They also should be wary of supplements and products marketed to athletes because many products do not live up to their claims to increase strength, speed, and athletic skills.
"Before you even consider supplement, you've got to make sure your diet and the foundation of that diet is solid," explains Luke Corey, a registered dietician and sports medicine expert with by Mayo Clinic Children’s Center. "What I tell my athletes is that unless you have a solid diet in place, eating every couple of hours consuming nutrient dense foods hydrating, well, supplements are not going to do for you what you think they're going to do."
On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Ask the Mayo Mom host Dr. Angela Mattke, a Mayo Clinic pediatrician, is joined by Luke Corey to discuss sports nutrition for young athletes. Topics discussed include what to eat before and after a workout; supplements and drinks including protein, creatine, electrolytes, and pre-workout caffeinated drinks; and concerns about calorie restrictive diets for athletes in some sports including wresting and gymnastics.
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