Dairy Nutrients Boost Young Athletes
Dairy nutrients boost young athletes
Sport is for everyone, not just elite athletes. It plays a role in the lives of many school children and teenagers. In the drive to combat childhood obesity, nutrition experts, sport scientists and government representatives are urging all young people in South Africa to become more active.
Children and adolescents should do 60 minutes (1 hour) or more of physical activity each day. These activities should be age appropriate, enjoyable and offer variety. Aerobic activity should make up most of the 60-plus minutes of physical activity each day. Muscle strengthening activities such as gymnastics or push-ups should be included at least three days per week. Bone strengthening activities, such as skipping or running, should also be included three days per week as part of the recommended 60-plus minutes per day.
Good nutrition and physical activity go hand in hand. But there are signs that our young athletes may not be consuming the right foods and drinks to ensure optimum growth, health and sporting performance. Two main aspects of childhood sports nutrition require attention:
• intake of sufficient energy and high-quality nutrients like protein and calcium
• adequate hydration.
A balanced solution: flavoured milk
Young athletes can get all these benefits in a single product! Although there are a variety of well-known sports drinks available, many young players and their coaches are not aware of the benefits of using flavoured low-fat milk or drinking yoghurt as drinks of choice for hydration and calcium supply.
Low-fat flavoured milk and drinking yoghurt not only provide fluid but also contain calcium, protein, carbohydrates and electrolytes in an ideal combination to prevent dehydration, fatigue and brittle bones. Research has shown that young athletes find it easier to up their fluid intake when carbohydrates are supplied through drinks that come in a variety of flavours. The intake of protein together with fluids has also been identified as ideal to help muscles recover after exercise.
Calcium: vital for young athletes
At no time in a child’s life is calcium more important than during the growth phase. Calcium storage in the skeleton reaches a peak around 12 and 14 years for girls and boys, respectively.
Risk factors for low bone mass
• Not enough calcium in the diet
• Strain due to hard exercise (over-training)
• Avoiding dairy products to lose weight (especially girls)
• Strict vegetarian diets that exclude dairy products.
Consequences of low bone mass
• Stunted skeletal growth
• Fractures and injuries
• Poor athletic performance.
Active children and adolescents who take part in sport need three to four servings of dairy products a day (low-fat milk, low-fat yoghurt and/or cheese).