While More Teenagers are Less Active...
According to Pediatrics, more than 90% of U.S. high school students don't get enough moderate-to-vigorous exercise. Unfortunately, this pattern continues, or even further declines, after graduation. Compared to 50 other countries, the U.S. falls near the bottom for youth fitness at 47th place.
Are your children learning how to build healthy habits early on in life? All it takes is a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day. This helps reduce the risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and even mental health problems.
Though Few, Teens need to Stay Active
The good news is that some teens are active - at least about 9% are meeting exercise recommendations. They play football, volleyball, soccer, hockey, tennis, basketball, you name it! They swim, they run, they bike, they hike.
One thing is for sure, though. These active youngsters are not small adults. They are still growing (rapidly at that). They're muscle mass, bone mass, hormones, nutrient needs, and fluid needs are unique and ever-changing as they continue to grow. As an adult, your energy, protein, carb, and fluid needs are relatively stable. A child's requirements, however, can dramatically change from year to year (or even within several months) depending on the rate of growth. If the youth is an active athlete, additional needs need to be considered.
Unfortunately, many young athletes fail to make the connection between the quality of their performance and their nutritional status. If young athletes don't fuel properly, they'll face illness, fatigue, poor bone growth, and even poor muscle growth. Determination or not, their performance will suffer.
Note just some of the micro and macronutrients that many young athletes don't get enough of:
CALCIUM - for healthy, growing bones and reduced risk of fracture and injury
IRON - for metabolism of carbs, protein, and fat as well as to prevent fatigue and poor immunity
B VITAMINS - Many young athletes aren't getting enough B vitamins, especially vitamin B6, which is critical for energy metabolism. A B vitamin deficiency can lead to fatigue or muscle soreness.
ZINC - This mineral is critical for athletes since it directly affects the body's metabolic rate as well as thyroid hormone levels.
CARBS - Poor intake of quality carbs is the typical cause of premature fatigue in young athletes. As a rule of thumb, young athletes need about 5-8 grams/kg of body weight for moderate or heavy training or 3-5 grams/kg for light intensity training.
PROTEIN - Protein is a critical component of a young athlete's diet in order to build, maintain, and repair muscles. When beginning a training program, youths typically need 1-1.5 grams/kg of protein. Youths in endurance sports need about 1.2-1.4 grams of protein/kg.
An active youth is rare these days. In order to help them stay active, however, they need to know how to properly nourish their developing bodies. They need to know that nutrition is a priority. They need to find easy, healthy ways to meet the demands of their body and their sport.
Three smart strategies to meet fuel demands of young athletes include:
1. Spread meals throughout the day
2. Plan meals around protein and carbohydrates
3. Snack smart, including fruits, vegetables, and dairy foods to maximize nutritional benefits and meet training needs.
1. Pediatrics. 2016;138(4):e20161372
2. Br J Sports Med. 2016 Sep 20. pii: bjsports-2016-096224.
3. Webb, D. (2012). Giving Nutrition Advice to Child Athletes - Active Kids Have Special Requirements for Top Performance.
14(1): 14. Retrieved from http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/011012p14.shtml.