Young athlete drinking chocolate milk after a practice.

Oct 12, 2017 / Sports Medicine

Sports Nutrition for Young Athletes

We see a variety of patients in our sports medicine clinic. Many seem to have overlapping nutritional concerns. In particular, gymnasts, soccer players, cross country runners and track & field athletes are being treated for stress fractures. For some, it’s a second or third stress fracture within a year. These reoccurring stress fractures often symbolize nutrition deficiencies in the athlete’s diet that are enhanced due to increased nutrient needs required for intense training.

A handful of the female athletes report that in the midst of their intense training and competition schedule they have stopped having regular periods. This is a concern for young females. Loss of the menstrual cycle is a sign that the athlete has an energy deficit where she expends more calories than she is eating and drinking. This can lead to hormonal, growth and development complications that can be long lasting and needs to be addressed as soon as possible.  Not only does this have general health implications, but it can set the athlete up for injury as they are under-fueled and tired going into events.

Often presenting together, these conditions: 1) low energy availability, 2) bone loss, and 3) menstrual disturbances are called female athlete triad. A thorough evaluation of the athlete’s nutritional habits is a key to improving these signs and symptoms. Here are common questions addressed in a nutrition consultation for a young athlete experiencing these and other medical conditions:
  • Are they skipping any meals?
  • Are they getting 3 out of the 5 food groups at each meal?
  • How much water / fluid are the drinking?
  • Are they getting adequate calcium and vitamin D for their age?
  • Are they getting enough protein for their weight, sport and age and are they spacing this protein out adequately throughout the day?
  • Do they appear to be getting adequate calories for their growth and sport needs?  
Taylor Fisher, M.S., R.D., L.D., meets with our patients and offers a customized plan including:
Nutrition counseling is an important role in recovery and injury prevention, especially when athletes have had injuries that are linked to energy deficiencies. Young athletes should learn to fuel their bodies for sports and activities so that they are performing at their best and avoid preventable injuries.

Learn more about injury prevention and pediatric sports medicine. 

You May Also Like: