Nutrition mistakes of young footballers
Young footballers don't always understand the value of good nutrition. However, having a healthy and balanced diet benefits their performance on the pitch. Here's how parents and coaches can take the lead role in shaping a player's relationship with food.
START RIGHT: Good habits can start early for young footballers - they just need the right support.
Getting youngsters to 'buy-in' to eating healthy can be a challenge, but promoting sporting success is a good motivator for young footballers. Encourage good eating habits as early as possible. It's a fact, the professionals that are consistently playing at the top levels of the game are the ones who take what they eat seriously.
COACH: Developing young footballers isn't just about kicking a ball. Helping them make better life choices is also important.
Young players are keen to imitate their footballing idols. Cristiano Ronaldo, for example, inspires with his football ability but also his well-toned physique. As much as he does train hard, his muscle maintenance requires a diet that covers all the food groups alongside specialised nutritional supplementation under guidance from experts.
EXAMPLE: Cristiano Ronaldo takes preparation seriously - this involves training and how he fuels himself.
Even though senior elite players use legal supplementation, under 16's should not try to speed up muscular development with protein supplements. Growth and maturation are genetically determined, developing mainly throughout the teenage years. High-energy balanced diets can, however, help to maximise the outcome; this also has a positive impact on training or games performance.
NEEDED: Good nutrition is essential for active young players who are still growing.
Active children do tend to need more food than their non-active peers. This food should be part of a balanced and nutritious diet. Adding variety ensures energy and physical development by covering all food groups. Healthy diets containing work toward general well-being and obesity prevention.
Although it is not advised for junior players to take dietary supplementation beyond their years, 'child-friendly' vitamins are now becoming more available and are being used.
As mentioned previously, full-time players (in some cases scholars) use advanced supplementation at pro clubs due to individual physical or nutritional requirements needed for intense training schedules.
- Too much: Eat more calories than are used = weight gain
- Too little: Not enough energy from food to play = tiredness
- Avoiding fats: Not all fats are bad
- Timing: Give at least 2hrs between food and playing
- Routine: Get a varied diet to ensure a nutritional mix
As young players grow older, they should begin to take more responsibility for the food they eat and the fluid they drink to fuel their bodies. This will be an expectation if they progress up the football ladder but also a good thing for an independent life away from home.
RESPONSIBILITY: Young players tend to know about hydration, they also need to understand the importance of food intake.
Pro academy players are given info but the club leave it to the individual to follow it upfootball4football nutrition team
Supplement manufacturers produce products to build muscle, carbohydrate drinks and gels for energy and vitamins to 'top-up' natural food intake. These products have to be produced and labelled in accordance with anti-doping regulatory bodies so players do not confuse them with illegal products that could harm them or are on banned substance lists.
FUEL : Different foods have different benefits so it's always beneficial to have a varied diet.
The most important thing for young footballers to have is as natural a diet as possible. Of course, there have to be allowances. Convenience or treats play a part but generally, your local supermarket has all you need to fuel any promising player.
For parents, this is the first step in setting processes for them to take responsibility for their future as healthy players. The 80:20 rule [80% of healthy balanced diet using all food groups & 20% of food that is classed a treat or is convenient to have] is normally a good approach to keep things right.
As a parent, it is essential to ensure that children maintain - and are aware of - a balanced diet until they are ready to take responsibility for their own nutritional needs. Having healthy nutrition and high energy levels will encourage them to work on their game and maximise their participation.