Aug 03, 2017 at 09:54

Whether you are a budding cricketer or gymnast, or play a sport just because it makes you happy, your body needs and deserves a careful balance of nutrition (yes more than your less active friends in school) for optimal performance. Kavita Devgan on the food rules a child athlete must follow diligently

First things first: Never diet. Sporting activities and dieting simply don’t mix. Also never skip breakfast; your body needs fuel to function, especially if you’re asking it to run, jump, swim and really workout. In fact eating before exercise, as opposed to exercising in the fasted state, has been shown to improve sporting performance.

Get the carbs in. A healthy diet that incorporates all food groups – carbohydrates, proteins and fresh fruits and veggies (for vitamins and minerals) is the thumb rule to follow. But a young athlete needs more. Eat enough carbohydrates every day for energy: regular or whole-grain bread, rice, pasta and cereals. Carbohydrates are the best fuel for working muscles as they get partially converted to glycogen, which is stored in your muscles to power your workout. They also help build up strength and stamina and are very important for growth and fueling your activity.

Supplement carbs with a solid dose of protein; protein will help build your muscles and repair injuries. Eat a healthy dose of fish, lean red meat, chicken, dairy products, nuts, soya products and peanut butter; try to eat one good source in every meal, and try to snack on protein foods too. Protein supplements are a big no, as they won’t help, instead will load your liver and may damage it in the long run.

Vitamins and minerals are essential as well. Follow the rainbow rule and try to eat plenty of different colour foods. Carrots, lettuce, spinach, capsicum, brinjals… eat them all, the more variety, the better. Calcium and iron are especially important. Make sure that cheese, milk, plain yoghurt are regularly on the menu. For iron, fill up on eggs, dried figs, legumes (chick peas) green vegetables, red meat, chicken (liver), roasted channa, and whole grains.

Also get in enough vitamin C and zinc for regular healing. Vitamin C is needed to make a protein called collagen and is needed for repairing tendons, ligaments and healing wounds. So load up on citrus fruits and other sources like strawberries, kiwi fruit, broccoli and bell peppers. Zinc is a mineral found mostly in animal foods — meat, fish, poultry and dairy foods — but it is also present in whole-grain breads and cereals, dried beans and peas and nuts.

Lack of fluid brought on by strenuous activity is a common pitfall for athletes. So in addition to regular 8 glasses of water a day, also drink an extra cup of fluid for every 20-30 minutes of sporting activity. Water, fresh fruit juice or a fresh lime drink are perfect. Sports drinks and energisers, however, are a big no-no at this age.

Finally remember unless you eat right and prepare your body right, no amount of practice will help you succeed in your chosen sport. So be careful with what you plate.


In Defence of Mediocrity
Somebody has to start speaking up for us, and rather urgently at that!

Mansi Tikko