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PROTEIN (More than just eggs!)

and

Young Athletes

Here go again! First of all, let me remind you about the fact that there has been minimal attention to the study of the macronutrients need for young athletes.  Most of the research that has been done on macronutrients is geared toward the adult metabolism. Therefore, a lot of nutrition information out on the web mostly apply to an adult athlete.

But thanks to guidance from the Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020 for Americans and some nutritionists we can help our young athletes eat better for improved performance and muscle health.  Just like carbohydrates are important in a young athlete’s diet so is protein.  A well balanced diet of carbs and protein will provide adequate muscle fuel for young athletes to train hard enough to improve on their training and game.

 

Protein is necessary to build and repair muscle tissue, boost immune system, but for young athletes is essential for growth and muscular development. If you think that by loading up on protein your young athlete will get some muscles, well, think again.  Young Athletes must exercise their muscles and have a control of the calories they consume.  Otherwise, protein can turn into extra calories and more fat which will slow down your young athlete.

But what are the protein needs for young athletes?

As a coach and parent, we can help our young athletes understand the reason behind eating better and the positive results of maintaining a healthy diet.  For that reason when talking to them about eating more protein we should be even more specific.  Saying “you need to eat more protein to build muscle” might not be as effective as saying “meat and beans are a good source of protein and good for your growing muscles”.  It is all about helping them be conscious and aware of what they need to eat and the benefits of doing so.

4 Easy Ways to Add Protein for Repairing Muscles

Eating more protein is easier than you think

The best thing young athletes can do for themselves is maintain a healthy lifestyle and know how to achieve this.  Eating balanced and nutritious meals throughout the day and before, during and after training or events.

How Many Carbohydrates Do Young Athlete's Need?

 

General recommendations for protein needs

Depending on the activity level of the young athlete, the recommended guidance for protein needs varies.  Use the recommendations below as a guidance only.

  • The recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein for the recreational 8 to 12 year old child is about 1/2 gram of protein per pound and .4 gram per pound for the 13 to 18 year old
  • Young athletes need a little bit more protein though.  They are building more muscle during exercise and therefore need enough protein to repair damaged muscles.  In her book, Eat Like a Champion, Jill recommends young athletes to consume 12% to 15% of calories from protein
  • A 2007 study on protein requirements in healthy male adolescents soccer players, suggested .6 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day to support growth and maintain protein balance
Moderately Active
Moderately Active means a lifestyle that includes physical activity equivalent to walking about 1.5 to 3 miles per day at 3 to 4 miles per hour, in addition to the activities of independent living.
Active
Active means a lifestyle that includes physical activity equivalent to walking more than 3 miles per day at 3 to 4 miles per hour, in addition to the activities of independent living.
Source
Source: Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids. Washington (DC): The National Academies Press; 2002.

Ask your pediatrician to ensure your young athlete is eating enough calories protein and carbohydrates for their activity level.  Ask your pediatrician how to get the appropriate amount of vitamins and mineral to help his/her growing bones.

 

You have probably heard this before.  There are several studies of adults that have shown small amounts of protein after an intense workout can repair damaged muscles and help in muscle gain.  A good after training/game suggestion has been chocolate milk (choose organic if possible).  It has about 10 grams per cup of protein and about 27 grams of carbohydrates.  A good 1:3 ratio. According to International Society of Sports Nutrition study, a protein-carb food combination within 30 minutes after exercise can improve the body’s ability to restore and repair muscles.

Remember, it is not only about just eating more protein. Young athletes need to exercise and eat enough calories to make protein available to muscles.  It is about eating a balanced diet of carbs, fat and protein.

Let’s do some calculations to get a better idea:

Young Athlete is 12 years old and he weighs an average of 90 pounds.  He practices four days a week for 1.5 hr.  He would fall under the ‘moderately active’ category. Following the recommendation from the 2007 study his daily’s protein needs:

  • During training/competion: 90 * .6 grams = 54 grams of protein per day

Protein Sources and Their Content *

Spread out protein intake though out the day, ensuring young athletes have some with their breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.

Animal Protein
animal protein needs source

It all depends on the level of activity. Refer to choosemyplate guidelines for the daily recommendation for boys and girls who get less than 30 minutes per day of moderate physical activity. Young athletes may be able to consume more protein while staying within calorie needs, ask your pediatrician.

plant protein
plant protein source

It all depends on the level of activity. Refer to choosemyplate guidelines for the daily recommendation for boys and girls who get less than 30 minutes per day of moderate physical activity. Young athletes may be able to consume more protein while staying within calorie needs, ask your pediatrician.

Watch out on the type of protein you are eating.  High protein diets tend to be high in fat as well.  Think about all those yummy steaks, ribs, bacon, pepperoni pizza, etc..  Young Athletes should make sure their athletic performance is not negatively impacted by the saturated fat found in many animal protein.  Also a diet high in saturated fat can also affect the heart! Stick with lean protein.

* Protein content varies based on brand names and portion size; read the nutrition label for protein content. Source: http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/

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What is the hardest part when trying to get your young athletes to eat more protein?

 

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