Star Nutrients for the Star Athlete!


  • Calcium helps build strong bones to resist breaking and stress fractures.  Calcium-rich foods include milk, yogurt, and cheese, as well as leafy green vegetables.
  • Iron helps carry oxygen to all the different body parts. Iron-rich foods include red meat, chicken, tuna, salmon, eggs, dried fruits, leafy green vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Protein is needed to build and repair muscles, but most kids get plenty of protein through a balanced diet. Strong muscles come from regular training and exercise and too much protein can lead to dehydration and calcium loss. Protein-rich foods include fish, lean red meat and poultry, dairy products, nuts, soy products, and peanut butter.
  • Carbohydrates are the body’s main source for energy and are important for young athletes.  Without carbohydrates in their diet, kids will be running on empty. Recommend choosing whole-grain foods like whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, whole-grain bread and cereal, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Water prevents dehydration, which can zap strength, energy, and coordination and lead to heat-related illness. Even mild dehydration can affect athletic performance. It is important for young athletes to consume fluids every 15-20 minutes during physical activity.  It is also important to consume fluids after being physically active to replace fluid lost through sweat.  Sports drinks are designed to provide energy and replace electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, lost through sweat. If your young athlete is active for more than60 to 90 minutes, a sports drink may be beneficial to replace electrolytes and calories needed. But water remains the best source for re-hydration.


  • All young athletes should fuel up for an event.  Approximately 3 hours or more before an event, a young athlete should have plenty of carbohydrates with a moderate amount of protein to fuel the body. By avoiding high fat foods, the athlete will be less likely to experience an upset stomach.  High-fiber foods have the potential to cause an upset stomach.
  • If a young athlete plans to eat less than 3 hours before game or practice, a lighter meal or snack may be easier to digest. Recommend including fruits or vegetable juice and simple carbohydrates.