What should girls eat after exercise?
Nutrition of children and adolescents who play sport - what should be considered in particular?
Moderate sport promotes health
Having fun and enjoying sensible sport - without compulsion and overexertion - is an important and absolutely beneficial aspect for child development. The child has important experiences in sport; it learns, for example, to measure itself fairly with others, is confirmed by victories, but also suffers defeats and learns to deal with them. It gets a sense of its physical limits, both in terms of exhaustion and in the sense of “growing out of itself in the heat of the moment”. Sport also promotes team spirit, willpower and fairness, and also requires consideration for others. In addition, sport is of course an important basis for health and performance as well as beneficial for physical and mental development.
Unfortunately for many children today, the enthusiasm for sport falls by the wayside because televisions and computers are much more tempting. And school sport is also being reduced rather than expanded in many places. The consequences can be seen every year during school examinations: obesity, poor posture and even serious illnesses are on the rise in our offspring due to a lack of exercise. For this reason, more exercise is urgently required and specifically promoted.
Parents who notice that their children not only like to romp around and run around tirelessly, but also want to explore their own performance even more intensively, should therefore definitely encourage this sporting development, but without exerting pressure and overloading the children. Excessive ambition and overloading of the not yet fully grown young organism are just as harmful as too little sport. In addition, the way of life of the adolescents must be adapted to their sporting activity; In addition to adequate sleep, this also applies to needs-based nutrition.
Proper nutrition as the basis for athletic performance
In order to be fit for athletic performance and to give the body the prerequisites for optimal speed, strength and endurance, an adapted diet is not only required in childhood and adolescence. However, children who play sport not only have to cover the “more” for their additional physical activity from their diet, but at the same time also have to take in enough energy and nutrients for their not yet completed growth process. From this it quickly becomes clear that it is particularly important for young athletes to meet their energy and nutrient requirements through a balanced diet; Malnutrition can lead to sensitive developmental disorders more quickly than in less active children. Sports-oriented nutrition does not mean protein drinks, power bars and electrolyte drinks, but varied, wholesome mixed food, as already discussed elsewhere in the online family handbook - but with a few small peculiarities that are discussed here.
Every breath, every movement and especially every physical activity costs energy. The longer and the more intensely you do sport, the greater the calorie consumption. The energy consumed must be replaced by food. Carbohydrates, fats and proteins are the body's energy suppliers. If the energy stores are not topped up, this usually leads to weight loss, which in turn can result in a loss of performance.
The following table provides an indication of the amount of energy required by children and adolescents as a function of age. Children who are very active in sport can have an energy requirement that is around 12% higher.
Orientation values for the daily energy requirements of children and adolescents of normal weight with moderate physical activity *
Boys: Kcal / day
Girls: Kcal / day
1 - 4 years
4 - 7 years
* In the case of low or high activity or overweight or underweight, individual adjustments to the guideline values are necessary after consulting a pediatrician
Source: DACH reference values for nutrient intake. Umschau / Braus, Frankfurt am Main, 2000.
It should be noted that physically active children and adolescents are often taller and heavier (due to lean muscle mass) than non-athletes of the same age. Therefore, the supply of energy, protein for muscle building and active substances (vitamins, minerals) must be related to the “biological age” (= actual size and weight) and not to the age. So they usually need a little more than children of the same age. The following table provides an indication of body size and weight depending on age.
Reference measurements of height and weight
Boys: height / cm
Girls: height / cm
Boys: body weight / kg
Girls: body weight / kg
|7 to under 10 years|
|10 to under 13 years|
|13 to under 15 years|
|15 to under 19 years|
Children who play sports need protein not only for growth, but also for muscle building due to exercise. Therefore, their need may be slightly increased. It can be assumed that the general intake recommendation of the German Nutrition Society (DGE) can be increased slightly from 0.9 g protein per kg body weight in very active children to up to 1.0 to 1.2 g protein per kg normal weight - depending on the sport. Intense weight training requires a higher protein intake than play or endurance sports. In addition to milk and dairy products, lean meat and fish, potatoes, whole grain products, legumes and nuts also contribute to coverage. Special protein preparations are not necessary with a balanced diet.
Although fat is high in calories, even young athletes should keep their fat intake relatively moderate. When doing sport, the energy supply from carbohydrates is more favorable for the young organism than from dietary fats. A high-fat diet leads to reduced performance and rapid fatigue and is more difficult to digest. Therefore, the increased energy required for sport should not be obtained from fatty sausage and fatty chips or French fries, but mainly from whole grain products and other carbohydrate carriers. The fat content of the diet should not exceed 35% of the daily energy intake, even for young athletes. Vegetable fats such as olive, germ or rapeseed oil are preferable, but butter is also not forbidden.
Carbohydrates are the secret of endurance and speed. When eating a high-carbohydrate diet, the muscle tissue stores more glycogen than usual. Glycogen is a form of storage for energy that can be released very quickly when needed. Well-filled glycogen stores are therefore a guarantee for jumping power, speed and endurance. As soon as the glycogen stores empty during exercise, performance decreases rapidly. The possible duration of performance is thus determined at the beginning of the performance by the glycogen content of the muscles, which should be increased as much as possible by a carbohydrate-based diet.
In practice, this means that little athletes can best replenish their glycogen reserves with muesli, whole grain products, potatoes, fruit, pasta and rice. Sweets and glucose only provide energy for a short period of time because they go into the blood very quickly and are broken down very quickly. The complex carbohydrates of the foods mentioned above, on the other hand, provide energy in a “dosed” manner, i.e. over a longer period of time. As a result, the performance is maintained longer.
Vitamins and minerals
Vitamins and minerals are important for the regulation of the metabolism. Especially when the metabolism of the young athlete is activated, they must be available in sufficient quantities. The best way to do this is to eat a varied diet. Vitamins are not magic bullets. An excessive vitamin intake only has a performance-enhancing effect if there was previously an undersupply. An uncontrolled intake of vitamin preparations can even be harmful, which is why it should only be done after consulting a doctor.
Even the vitamin and mineral needs of the little athlete can easily be met with a balanced, wholesome diet. The focus is on fruit, vegetables, milk, juices and cereal products. Meat, fish and eggs complete the selection. Variety makes sense; One-sided food selection, on the other hand, can lead to a decline in performance and reduced resistance.
Children have to drink a lot - and children who lose a lot of sweat while exercising, even more so! It is important to drink enough and to drink throughout the day - also during exercise, training and competitions. Gone are the days when you said when you mountaineering: not a sip before the tree line. Drinking too late leads to decreased performance, circulatory problems and breakdown. It is correct to use the water bottle every now and then and take in small portions (maximum 150 ml) of liquid. The more you lose sweat, the more and more often you have to drink.
Children who play sports tend to be sufficiently thirsty on their own. By having a full bottle ready, however, they must have the opportunity to quench this thirst during training and competition. You should never be thirsty while exercising, not even in school sports lessons! The more often small amounts are drunk, the better.
What is drunk is initially of subordinate importance; the fluid is important. However, strongly sweetened, ice-cold, carbonated, caffeinated or even alcoholic beverages are not recommended (beer for young people). Milk is also not a drink in this sense. The average daily requirement for children who play sports is 2 - 3 liters of fluid. (Mineral) water and juice spritzer (2-3 parts water, 1 part juice) are best. Special sports drinks with electrolytes are not necessary with a balanced diet.
Recommended drink intake per day (without surcharge for sports)
ml of water
4 - 6 years
7 - 9 years
When should the little athlete eat?
The distribution of meals is basically no different for small athletes than for other children: 5 - 6 smaller meals have a more favorable effect on the blood sugar level and thus on performance and concentration than a few large ones. If there are too long breaks between meals, performance can drop sharply in between due to hypoglycaemia. With large, lavish meals, there is a risk of bloating and fatigue. Therefore, no main meal should be consumed directly before training or competition. Fruit and muesli are ideal here, such as power muesli:
150 g yogurt or quark
4 tbsp fruit muesli
Preparation: Cut the fruit into small pieces, mix with the yoghurt / quark, fold in the muesli flakes.
Apple spritzer as a sporty basic drink
¼ l apple juice
½ l mineral water
Dried fruits, muesli bars and nuts (e.g. trail mix) are also good snacks before exercise. And the banana during the break is almost a cult, not only among tennis players!
If the child does not come home straight to eat after exercising, they should always have a suitable snack (sandwiches, fruit, snacks) with them in their sports bag in addition to a well-filled drinking bottle, so as not to be tempted by sports-related Satisfy hunger with sweets or fast food on the go. At home, a large portion of spaghetti, a delicious vegetable casserole or a strong lentil stew helps to get the exhausted active children back on their feet and to recharge the glycogen stores for new activities.
Children who do normal sport or dosed competitive sport in their free time usually do not need any special nutrition - nor do they need protein supplements, vitamin or mineral capsules, sports drinks or other special sports food. These cost a lot of money and are of no benefit in the context of a balanced diet. The additional energy requirement is best covered with a varied mixed diet that contains a lot of wholemeal bread, muesli, wholegrain rice or wholegrain pasta - that is, carbohydrates. In addition, fruits and vegetables cover the vitamin and mineral requirements. Five to six small meals a day and plenty of drinks, ideally mineral water or fruit juice spritzers, make you fit and athletic.
More articles by the author here in our family handbook
Dr. oec. troph. Eva-Maria Schröder (M.P.H. postgrad.), Nutrition and health scientist, freelance journalist, head of the nutrition advisory service in Tutzing.
Dr. oec. troph. Eva-Maria Schröder
Nutritional advice service
Created on September 14, 2004, last changed on March 30, 2010
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