Fueling Young Gymnasts
Fueling Young Gymnasts - Sports Nutrition
One topic many gymnastics parents have questions about is nutrition for their athletes. After all, once these young kids are placed “on team”, their schedules fill up very quickly with hours of intense training. So, the concern is, how do we fuel their young bodies to allow for proper growth while they pursue their dreams in this demanding sport? Here are a few tips on how to properly fuel your gymnasts to give them maximum energy at practice and excellent health for life.
- Wake-up and EAT! Gymnastics Breakfast Ideas
Fueling a gymnast is an all-day affair. It’s not enough to give them some complex carbs right before practice and then hope it’s enough to fuel the whole workout. Your gymnast really should start fueling within 30-minutes of waking up in the morning. Then, if school will allow, eat a balanced snack every two to three hours throughout the day, right up until 30-minutes before practice.
- Nutrient Dense Foods
Most of the pre-packaged foods we feed our kids today are either completely devoid of vitamins and minerals, or the natural vitamins and minerals have been stripped out before the foods are then “fortified” with engineered replacements. Neither of these is a good thing! Your gymnast NEEDS a lot of whole, healthy, minimally processed foods. Starting the day with eggs and fruit and natural granola or oats is an amazing start to their demanding days! Fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, eggs, lean meats, legumes, and even some dairy can all be included in your athlete’s healthy diet.
- Important Protein
Gymnastics requires a tremendous amount of muscle and strength. Gymnasts regularly breakdown their muscles during intense training sessions and the need more protein than their non-athletic counterparts to help rebuild and repair their hard-worked muscles. Try to provide your child a protein source with each meal and snack. Great sources of protein include nuts, cheese, Greek yogurt, eggs, meats, jerky, and milk to name a few. Fruit, veggies, and cheese sticks make a great snack and lean meat with veggies and a starchy carb like sweet potatoes or couscous make a great balanced meal.
- Water, water, and more water
Along with protein, water is the most important component to muscle recovery. Our bodies are comprised of 70% water! Athletes lose a lot of this water during their training and it needs to be replenished. Water works to flush toxins, regulates body temperature, boost energy, and aid in injury prevention. Sugary drinks do not provide the same benefits of water, so make sure your athletes are drinking water with every meal and hydrating during their workouts.
Following these basic guidelines for gymnast nutrition can provide your child with a competitive edge, a decreased risk of injury, and life-long healthy nutrition habits that will keep them fit and healthy for years to come.
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