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Is Your Child Ready to Play Sports? Part 3: Nutrition, Environmental Toxins, and Performance

In Part 2 we discussed the brain, motor development, and bone age.

In Part 3 we discuss nutrition....

“The foods and drinks that players choose to consume can affect how they perform in sport and help them to stay fit and healthy. All players should choose foods wisely to help achieve their goals in sport." F-MARC Nutrition for Football

Since the time of the Industrial Revolution (the last 200 years or so), we have changed our natural environment in ways that could not have been imagined. Fast forward to the 21st century. We eat more food, yet absorb fewer nutrients because the soils in which our food is grown is mineral deficient.

"Large parts of the world's agricultural soils are deficient in minerals such as zinc. This limits food and feed production and leads to nutrient deficiency diseases in humans and livestock." (Source)

The 2013 CDC Report, State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables, states, "Most U.S. residents, including children, consume too few fruits and vegetables." The median intake for American adults of fruit is 1.1 times a day and for vegetables, only 1.6 times daily. Adolescents numbers are lower! And these results were based on questionnaires. Fruit included fruit juices and vegetables included white potato!

Environmental toxins permeate our lives in the foods we eat, in the air we breathe, in the products we use in our homes and on our bodies. The extent of the problem is scary. A 2004 study in U.S. hospitals found an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in umbilical cord blood.

"A key adverse health impact of ubiquitous exposure to environmental chemicals is disruption of hormones that regulate healthy human reproduction and development," according to the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics.

Are you child receiving the nutrients they need for proper development?

"Development during the first two years of life is critical and has a lasting impact on a child’s health. Poor infant and child nutrition can lead to deficiencies in essential micronutrients, which may cause a weakened immune system and lasting effects on children's growth and development." (Source)

Deficiencies in vitamins and minerals are ubiquitous. Vitamins A, C, E, B12, Folate and especially D deficiency are problematic as are mineral deficiencies in zinc, magnesium, selenium to name a few.

When it comes to sports, recovery is king and the body will not be able to properly recover without sufficient nutrients.

Here are some general recommendations:

  1. Eating nutrient dense foods, preferably organic, provides you with the best sources of macro and micro nutrients. That means as little processed food as possible! Buying foods from local farmers who use organic farming practices (eventhough they may not say organic - it is expensive to have that label). Eating from a small box is likely to put you in a bigger box sooner than later (think about it!). Look at EWG's Dirty Dozen and Clean 15.

  2. Vegetables (and we don't mean ketchup and french fries) are good! Wash them thoroughly and eat them!

  3. Fruits are good! Eat them in moderation.

  4. additives, preservatives, dyes, MSG, and artificial sweeteners.Chemicals are bad. That means anything you cannot pronounce that is on a label like

  5. It is up to the athlete to experiment and have a full understanding of which foods and liquids work (i.e. help performance) and which do not.

  6. Trying a new food or drink or supplement on game day is always a bad idea!

  7. Avoid GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) foods. See this list!

Carbohydrates: Most athletes will not be able to get enough "carbs" from fruit and veggies alone. The best sources are sweet potatoes, squash, brown rice, quinoa and other non-wheat based grains and beans. Please learn how to soak your grains and beans if you choose to eat them. Eat only what you really need to continue to train. In other words, eat as much as you need to feel energized and no more. Like we said, you must experiment.

Protein: This is a loaded topic! Once again, you need enough to recover and rebuild the muscle you have torn down. Excess is not better. There are many formulas used to determine protein needs, but we will go simple .... one gram of protein per pound of lean body mass (not total weight) as a general guide. low mercury (low toxin) such as sardines, herring and anchovies. Unfortunately, tuna, swordfish and Chilean sea bass can be high toxin fish.What type of protein? Well, there are plenty of plant based protein only advocates out there, but our take is that grass fed (organic) meats (sustainably raised) are good as well. Here's some recent evidence. Fish is great, but must be heavy metal free and not farm raised.

Fats: No trans fats! And saturated fat is not bad! It is good when it comes from an organic source!

Best cooking oils:

  1. No soybean and canola oil.

  2. Low heat: Sunflower, grassfed butter, Pumpkin

  3. Medium heat: Olive, Hazelnut, Sesame, Macadamia

  4. High heat: Coconut, Palm, Ghee, Avocado; medium heat

Good fats: grassfed meats, organic butter, raw nuts, pastured eggs (eat the yolk!)

Dairy: you must experiment. Remove dairy for at least a week or two and see how you feel. Then add back what you miss eating. Grass fed butter, raw and fermented cheese, raw milk (unpasteurized), organic, full fat goat's yogurt, organic Greek yogurt, and kefir are great choices. Introduce one at a time for several days each and see how you feel. Regular grocery bought milks and cheeses (any type) are very poor choices.

Micronutrients: Another minefield! Most vegans and vegetarians are micronutrient deficient in B12, Iron, Omega 3s, Iodine, Vitamin D, Calcium, Zinc - click here to learn how to prevent these deficiencies if you are vegan or vegetarian.

Salt: The conventional wisdom that salt is bad has been challenged and refuted by recent studies. The current research supports an intake between 3000 and 7000 milligrams of sodium (1.5 to 3.5 teaspoons of salt) per day. Regular table salt is heavily processed, full of additivess and devoid of minerals. Look for sea salt and check the label.

Supplements: Based on the above mentioned soil nutrient deficiencies, we feel supplementation is is helpful for most people. A good kids multi is a start. No artificial sugars!

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