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Food diet

Good morning everyone!

School year is about to start and with it the sport season. After the summer break and with the winter coming in the next few months I was curious to know if you advise your athletes to have special diets.

For example do you tell them to eat more protein and to pay attention to any fast gain/lost of weight since the training sessions may be intense.
In your opinion does this topic is worth to be taught more in detail or just some advice during regular training are enough?


  • Jim,

    As far as nutrition is concerned this is a loaded question. There are many factors to take into account.

    The population; age, body type, and type of athlete

    What conditions are the athlete training in, temperature wise

    Have they done any pre-season /off- season conditioning

    How much rest your athletes are getting

    How serious they are about their training


    How much time are you willing to put into ensuring your athletes are doing what they need to do to maintain their bodyweight

    The population is going to determine how many calories they are going to consume to maintain their weight. As an example of dietary intake for young athletes the ADA suggests:

    carbohydrate intake

    3 to 5 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram for very light intensity training;

    • 5 to 8 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram for moderate or heavy training;

    • 8 to 9 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram for preevent loading (24 to 48 hours prior); and

    • 1.7 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram for postevent refueling (within two to three hours)

    Protein intake

    Athletes who have just begun a training program require 1 to 1.5 grams per kilogram per day of protein.

    • Athletes participating in endurance sports require 1.2 to 1.4 grams per kilogram per day of protein.

    • Athletes who restrict calories must be certain to consume adequate protein for muscle building and repair. A minimum of 1.4 grams per kilogram per day is recommended.

    • Vegetarian and vegan athletes should be counseled to ensure that adequate intake of protein is consumed from plant sources.

    • Consuming an overabundance of protein can lead to dehydration, weight gain, and increased calcium loss. This is critical to monitor as research shows that the population of young athletes is already at risk for calcium deficiency

    Fat intake

    • While a low-fat diet can be followed, it is important that young athletes consume an average of 20% to 30% of calories from fat.

    • Like adults, young athletes should aim to significantly lower the amount of saturated and trans fat in their diet. The focus should be on an intake of healthy fat from plant oils and soft margarines made with vegetable oils and on limiting the amounts of fried and processed foods.

    The temperature is going to determine weight as it pertains to water loss. Athletes who are training in high temperatures ,mainly your outdoor athletes, they will incur the most water loss debt. For an example the ADA suggests for young athletes:

    • Child and adolescent athletes should aim to replenish lost hydration stores during and after an event. This can be done by weighing the athlete before and after an event and replacing fluids lost (16 to 24 ounces for every pound lost).

    • For activities lasting less than 60 minutes, select water for hydration.

    • For activities lasting more than 60 minutes, select sports beverages for hydration, electrolytes, and energy from carbohydrate. Select a beverage that provides 6% to 8% carbohydrate.

    • Lastly, be aware that children do not instinctively drink enough fluids to replace lost stores and thirst does not always indicate when the body is in need of more fluids.

    Sleep is critical to athletes recovery after long days at school and strenuous practices/conditioning sessions. It has been shown in numerous studies that lack of sleep causes the brains reward center to rev up and also causes people to crave more energy dense, more high carbohydrate foods. Combining those two things will cause people eat poorly thus can cause a sudden increase in body weight.

    The next part is the most critical, how serious are both parties involved? If both the Athletic Trainer and the athlete are committed to a consistent effort then it will change your approach to not only educating them but ensuring they have regular data with measurable outcomes. What you can do to ensure your athletes are doing what they need to do the Athletic Trainer can start with;

    Nutrition monitoring- Having the athletes download an app to keep a food journal and those who participate in this it makes it easier to find out where they are having their pitfalls in energy levels and weight gain or weight loss

    Body fat testing- Having objective measurements of where your athletes body fat is during the season gives the Athlete and Athletic Trainer the ability to track when during their training they are increasing or decreasing in lean mass and body fat.

    Girth Measurements- This will tell the athlete and the Athletic Trainer where the gains and losses are coming from and when they are occurring.

    Keeping records on weight on hot days-weighing your athletes before and after practices will make sure the athletes can replace the appropriate amount of water and prevent overhydrating or becoming dehydrated.

    I hope that some of this information has helped you find the answers that you are looking for.
    Audric Warren MS, ATC, CAFS, NASM-PES, NASM-CES
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