Elite athletes know how to deliver elite performances. And they know that the best way to fuel elite performances is to make great nutrition choices. But fueling elite performances shouldn’t be limited to our elite athletes.
Nutrition is a key contributor to performance. And it’s one that is often overlooked for athletes of all ages. The building blocks of good nutrition start with just good instincts. Starting from a young age, you probably knew not to eat certain things before a game, or to not eat too much because it’s hard to digest before the game starts. What youth athletes might not know is that certain foods can make you feel more energetic, think more clearly, and benefit performance in training and competition.
Here at Liberty Mutual Insurance Play Positive™ we believe that parents and coaches can help youth athletes incorporate sports nutrition into their pre-game plans to bring out their best performance. Think of food as fuel for everything your youth athletes do.
We sat down with Alyssa Koomas, MS, MPH, RD to get her thoughts on how youth athletes, coaches and Positive Sport Parents can help fuel elite performances. Alyssa is the Regional Project Manager for Healthy Kids Out of School, an initiative of ChildObesity180 at Tufts University’s Friedman School. US Youth Soccer has partnered with Healthy Kids Out of School to create the Coaching Healthy Habits training, which provides coaches with information and tips to support healthy youth athletes.
In our exclusive TAKE 5 interview, Alyssa told us that she believes fueling performance begins and ends with proper and consistent hydration.
“We always remind youth athletes that water is the recommended “sports drink” both on and off the field,” said Alyssa. “Drinking water throughout the day is essential for athletes to perform their best and avoid dehydration once they get to practice. Take water breaks often, put water bottles along the sidelines for easy access, and build the habit of reaching for water instead of sugary drinks.”
Alyssa said that youth athletes should always be sure to consume plenty of water, insisting that it is of much more value than most so-called “sports drinks” or fruit juices on the market today.
“Water keeps athletes hydrated without the added sugar that’s found in other common sideline beverages,” said Alyssa. “We’ve heard from many coaches and parents that they think the electrolytes in sports drinks are important for youth athletes, but the fact is, kids don’t need sports drinks, and doctors don’t recommend them.”
Alyssa added that she believes coaches and parents can both play a vital role in ensuring youth athletes properly fuel their performances.
“Kids look up to their coaches, so a little advice goes a long way,” said Alyssa. “Coaches have a great opportunity to create an environment that helps young athletes build healthy habits for an active future. Some coaches have used a parent/athlete or team “water pledge” to get everyone on board with drinking water instead of sports drinks and other sugary beverages. Efforts like these may seem small, but the evidence shows that these simple changes can make a huge difference in helping kids build healthy habits.”
Positive Sport Parents, meanwhile, can help out by making sure they help fuel performance in the home.
“The best advice we can give parents is to remember that kids who play youth sports are first and foremost kids, and the habits they learn now will stay with them into adulthood,” said Alyssa. “Sometimes it just takes one parent on the team to make a difference. Help ensure your young athlete and their teammates learn to make water their “sports drink,” and fruits and veggies the first choice for snacks.”
To read the full TAKE 5 interview with Alyssa, visit PlayPositive.com. And come back next month for another exclusive TAKE 5 interview!
At Liberty Mutual Insurance, we constantly look for ways to celebrate the countless acts of positivity shown by people every day. We created Play Positive as part of this belief to help ensure that our kids experience the best that sports have to offer in environments that promote and display positivity. We believe kids can learn valuable life lessons when coaches and parents come together to support winning on and off the field.
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