Carbohydrates is always listed as the most important energy sources for athletes, may it be according to a renowned athletic group, a renowned athlete, a coach, a dietitian or a nutritionist. No matter if our athletic child is a gymnast, boxer, or figure skater, this energy source is so important because it provides their muscles with the fuel they need to work at their best. Including healthy carbohydrates into their sports nutrition diet could help them run, jump, or dodge faster.
It might be because of over-promotion or lack of proper knowledge that we think as long as a food has carbohydrates, our young athletes could eat it. That is a misconception. Some carbohydrates could actually bring more disadvantages to our children than advantages. Not all carbohydrates are ideal for athletic performance so it is important that we know their differences.
Carbohydrates in general are made up of three components: fiber, starch, and sugar. Simple carbohydrates are the ones from sugary foods, refined grains, or starches and has lower fiber. This kind of carbs can cause energy crashes that interfere with training and competition as they furnish quick energy which dangerously burns rapidly.
Examples of foods that contain simple carbs which we should not let our young athletes eat are:
- Cookies – It is not advisable to just buy packaged cookies. If our athletic kids wanted to eat this delicious delicacy, we should bake it for them using substitutes like applesauce or sweeteners.
- Soda – As a substitute to sodas, only allow our kids to drink water flavored with lemon or something similar.
- Pie – Pies or other baked goods can be replaced with fruits instead.
- Cereal – Some breakfast cereals can be good for our athlete and some can be harmful. It is best to allow them to eat only Special K, Wheaties or Cheerios as they are low in sugar and high in fiber.
- Juice – Not all juices should be avoided, but make sure that the drink we are allowing our kids to take is 100% fruit juice.
An athlete needs to include in their diet the correct carbs that provides energy which burns slower than simple carbohydrates, and this is called complex carbohydrates. This carb pack more nutrients than its counterpart because it is high in fiber and digest more slowly. Complex carbs could be found mostly on foods high in fiber and starch like:
- Grains – Grains are good sources of fiber, as well as potassium, selenium, and magnesium. The best choices for grains are quinoa, buckwheat, and whole-wheat pasta.
- Fruits – Examples of fiber-rich fruits are apples, berries, and bananas. Avoid canned ones as they may contain syrup.
- Beans – Beans, other than fiber, also contains folate, iron, and potassium.
- Vegetables – Examples of fiber-rich vegetables are broccoli, leafy green, and carrots.
Based on our lists above, it is safe to say that the best choice for the kind of carbohydrate that we should allow our athletic children to eat is the complex carbs. Aside from being great sources of lasing energy, it is also a key to long-term health. Complex carbs make it easier to maintain our kids’ weight and can even help avoid type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular problems.
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