Roxanne E. Moore: Hi! I am Roxanne Moore, Registered Dietitian and Director of Wellness for Sodexo Schools. What an athlete eats on the days between competitions is equally as important as what the athlete eats before, during, and after exercise.
Unfortunately, people and even kids continue to experiment with fat diets, pills, and potions to improve their body physique. Such extreme eating behaviors can lead to compulsive eating, eating disorders, or frustration with weight that yo-yos up and down.
Deciding whether an athlete, especially a child athlete, needs to gain or lose weight and then deciding how to do it can be quite a challenge and should not be undertaken without supervision by your physician or registered dietitian.
One free resource to help get you started eating the right foods everyday is Choose MyPlate's SuperTracker tool which can help you monitor your daily food intake and exercise as well as suggest a basic meal plan to get you started. However, this tool cannot take into consideration personal information such as medications, supplements, weight history, or family history.
Working with a registered dietitian will allow you to customize a plan to best meet your personal needs and goals. When it comes to setting goals it's important to understand that there is no one ideal body weight. Each athlete is unique. Young athletes especially need to strive for a weight that helps them feel good and gives them the energy and stamina that they need to train and compete at their best.
Many young athletes will obtain goal weight simply by making changes in their diets and exercising more. Replacing high calorie, high fat foods with nutritious low-calorie, high carbohydrate foods can help improve athletic performance, can help with weight loss, and helps to steer an athlete towards a healthier lifestyle so that they can gradually grow into their weight. However, when weight loss or gain is necessary a physician or registered dietitian will recommend a specific goal weight and take into consideration the young athlete's level of maturity, growth, and development.
Many times a young athlete may not need to lose weight, but instead needs to grow to a height that is appropriate for his/her weight. So try to encourage athletes to remember this important point. Being a great athlete is not about size, it's about fitness, your speed, agility, flexibility, and strength should be measured, not your weight.