As young athletes grow through childhood and adolescence they face many additional challenges to physically mature athletes. As their bodies develop, a younger athlete’s skeletal structure will undergo significant change as bones grow, they become taller, body composition changes, muscles develop to become stronger, faster etc. This can be an exciting, but often challenging period in an athlete’s career, and one which needs to be carefully managed.
The correct exercise routines, training schedules and competitive programmes need to be carefully mapped-out if young athletes are to meet their full potential without long term injury. Doing too much, too soon can be seriously detrimental to their general health, well-being and future sporting aspirations.
Getting the right nutritional balance is also vital for all athletes, but it is particularly important to young athletes. Because their bodies are not yet fully developed, choosing a diet that provides all of the key nutrients required for growth, as well as the energy needed to perform and compete is vital to help them achieve their athletic potential.
The key is balance and moderation. Unlike adult athletes who may wish to focus on particular food groups and nutrients that provide key benefits for their sport, young athletes should eat a wide variety of foods from a range of food groups. Young athletes should try new foods and flavours on a regular basis, which will both educate their palate and enable them to enjoy a wide range of choices of food throughout their life, making getting the right nutrition much easier.
A wide variety of foods combined with plenty of water will give young athletes a firm foundation on which to build their training. Once fully developed young athletes can then go on and explore the specific nutritional requirements of their chosen sport, helping to maximise their potential.