School sports are about to return in full force, and depending on their activity level, student athletes need anywhere from 2,000 to 6,000 calories a day. But as Barbara Vaughan explains in the Parenting Project, what they put in their bodies is more important than the calories they consume.
Sports drinks and protein supplements are popular among athletes. And they're not all bad, but they're not the only keys to success.
18-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 almost literally eat their mother out of house and home. Her grocery bill averages about $200 a week.
Debbie Churchman says she buys good stuff: very little packaged food and not junk food. It sounds simple, but experts say three healthy meals and three daily snacks are all most teen athletes need, spaced through the day in intervals of three to four hours. And 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 who do muscle-building exercises, like Collin, or others who focus on distance running, protein bars and shakes come into play. 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. And those containing less than 8-percent sugar and electrolytes are best. Doctors suggest getting in the habit of drinking every 15 minutes, at whatever age.
It's easy to want to hit a drive-through when you're on the go, and not all fast food is bad. But be sure to make good food choices. You can often get the calories you need, but rarely the nutrients, from fast food. Finally, talk to your family health care provider to determine your athletic child's nutritional needs.