Athletic Preparedness

Now that Memorial Day and the summer is upon us, it’s already time to think about summer training for school sports in the fall and beyond.  We all want our children to enjoy the many physical, emotional, and character advantages derived from athletic competition.  But, deep down, we all want them to excel.

Certainly,training hard and competing aggressively are necessary components for achievement.  But I try and remind my patients that success begins outside of the playing field/arena:

Adequate sleep is fundamental.  Even adolescents need > 8 hours/night but many routinely get far less.  Besides mood stability, state of alertness, and overall feeling of wellbeing, sleep causes release of growth hormone which is essential for growth and repair of bones, muscles, and tendons strained during athletic activity.  This leads to faster post training recovery, injury healing, as well as more and better muscle development aiding skills development.  Conversely, sleep deprivation induces stress related cortisol  release which promotes all kinds of metabolic derangements like insulin resistance, fat accumulation, higher BP, and even immune compromise to name just a few.  Please note that long midday naps or extended weekend sleep time does not provide replacement “catch up” for regular good nights’ sleep.

Of course, nutrition is key.  No supplements are necessary and many actually cause harm.  The human body was designed to eat food.  Endeavor to provide a diet of 45-65% good carbohydrates (whole grains, fruit, dairy); 10-30% protein (lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs, beans, nuts); and 25-35% healthy (<10% saturated)) fats ( olive oil, nuts, beans).  Include Vitamin D 600 IU (dairy), calcium 1000-1300 mg/day (dairy, broccoli, spinach) and iron 8-11 mg/day for children and boys, 15mg/day for teen girls due to menstruation (eggs, leafy vegetables, whole grains, meats).  Avoid fatty meals before training as this delays gastric emptying which leads to bloating, cramps, and poor performance.  Schedule recovery foods like graham crackers, peanuts/peanut butter, yogurt or cheese, fresh or dried fruit for 1-2 hours after training/competing.  Avoid “wasted” calories  from candy, chips, soda/sport drinks, or baked goods–cookies and cake.

Hydration–consume 400-600 ml water before athletic activity.  Fluid replacement as per this table; for events < 1 hr water is sufficient; if > 1 hr fluids with sugar and electrolyte replacements are better.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has established guidelines on youth sports participation which encourages reasonable weekly and seasonal limits.  Cross training improves core muscle strength and stability, limits emotional burnout and injury by avoiding muscle and tissue overuse in one given sport.  Also, of course, it allows a kid to just have fun by varying his/her experience and social interactions.

Remember, the point of all youth sports is fun and growth.  If a kid has the aptitude and desire to “go the distance” either in sports competition or business, that comes from inside them and not from us.  But if they do want to win, I tell them, they need to be smart as well as good–odd hours, irresponsible partying,  bad food or fad diets, poor or overtraining is NOT the path to athletic success.

Send along questions or comments, and thanks for following.

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