Perform physical activity during childhood brings many benefits to the health of children, but growing so fast that occurs during this stage requires us to pay close attention to their nutritional needs.
Nutritional needs of children athletes
The World Health Organization states that children and adolescents between 5 and 17 years of age should take at least 60 minutes of intense physical activity each day. This habit helps the development of motor skills and coordination, strengthens muscles and bones and has a positive effect on blood pressure levels. In short, physical activity helps children and adolescents feel better.
Nutrition plays an important role both in the growth and development of children, in the prevention of injuries and in the improvement of their performance. Children and adolescents develop an activity during a period of growth and maturation, and this situation has some nutritional implications.
If we talk about energy intake, children and adolescents need a total energy intake sufficient to meet the daily needs due to growth and maturation of tissues, and for physical activity. Without an adequate intake of energy the child may feel tired, lose weight and stop “working” well, both mentally and physically. In cases where the energy intake is too low, the body can get to use muscle protein as a source of energy, this situation can lead to growth problems and bone health.
The carbohydrates are known as the preferred energy source of the body during exercise, although this is not due directly applied to children, some studies have shown that children can use the fat as a source of energy during exercise so More effective than adults. Carbohydrates, however, should not be removed from the diet of children, ensuring that these are of an integral type, to achieve the correct contribution of fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Fat intake is important for the child who is physically active. Lipids can be used as an energy source and in addition, we should not forget that many of the foods that are usually high in fat, such as fish oil, meat and dairy products are also rich in other nutrients such as vitamin B 12, vitamin A or vitamin D and minerals like iron, zinc, chromium, magnesium or calcium.
The protein is important as it provides the essential amino acids play a vital role in the growth of tissues, including muscle. In general, active people increase their intake of protein naturally by increasing their energy intake; however, children who are physically active and practice vegetarianism may need extra protein in order to meet their needs.
Regarding the hydration of children who perform some physical activity we must emphasize that they do not have the same capacity as adults to regulate body temperature. Children tend to accumulate more heat because they have a greater surface-body mass ratio. This can be especially problematic in hot environments as the volume of sweating may be less. For these reasons, children should be especially careful with fluid intake throughout the day, also during their involvement in physical activities to prevent dehydration and heat stress.