Health Alert: Child athletes and nutrition

NATIONAL - With more than seven million high school students gearing up to participate in athletics this year, it is no wonder parents are concerned about what their children are eating. Child athletes may have special needs when it comes to nutrition.

School athletics are about to return in full force - but do you know the best way to fuel your kids? Those popular sports drinks and protein supplements may not be the only keys to success.

Eighteen-year-old Collin Griffith is about to start his college football career. His 14-year-old sister, Katey, is on her high school's volleyball team.

Combined, they literally eat their mother out of house and home. Her grocery bill averages about $200 a week. But, Debbie Churchman says, "I buy good stuff. I do not buy junk food. I buy very little packaged food."

It sounds simple, but experts say three healthy meals and three daily snacks are all most teen athletes need.

Sports nutrition specialist Leanne Skinner says, "They need to be spaced through the day in intervals of three to four hours. In order for the child to be able to consume that, they've got to be able to have time to burn it."

For athletes like Collin, who do muscle-building exercises, or others who focus on distance running, protein bars and shakes come into play.

Skinner says, "They can provide not only protein, but carbohydrates and vitamins and minerals. So it's important to be sure that when you buy a supplement like that, that it does contain more of the necessary nutrients."

Water lost through sweating isn't easily replaced, so staying hydrated is extremely important. Experts recommend six to eight ounces of fluid during strenuous exercise.

Sports drinks are good for activities that last more than an hour. Leanne says those containing less than eight-percent sugar and electrolytes are best. "Every 15 minutes get in the habit of drinking, whether your child is 11 or 19."

Proper nutrition is one way both Collin and Katey stay focused and are able to excel at each of their sports.

So what about fast food and the athletic diet? LeAnne says she advises her clients that they need to make good choices based on their level of competition. You can get the calories but rarely the nutrients you need from fast foods.

Posted by Chantelle Janelle