9 tips to prevent sports injuries with good nutrition

Sharon Schreiber

During the holiday season, youth sports activities kick into high gear. With extra practices, games and weekend tournaments, it's tempting to feed kids on the run with fast food. But good nutrition is a vital ingredient to sports performance and injury prevention.

I recently interviewed Dr. Laura Lemke, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Fox Valley Orthopedics in Geneva, Ill., and the mother of three young, sports-minded children. She offers advice to parents to help them ensure their kids stay fit, healthy, and safe.

"When properly nourished, children are better able to handle the fast-paced environment of today's youth sports," says Dr. Lemke, a former competitive swimmer and triathlete and wife of New York Yankees scout Steve Lemke. "Good food provides energy, supports tissue growth and repair, and regulates your child's metabolism for peak performance."

Dr. Lemke encourages young athletes to eat every four hours rather than large meals late in the day. And she stresses the importance of food choices.

"Sugars (simple carbohydrates) cause a quick spike in blood sugar followed by an equally dramatic crash," says Dr. Lemke. "The result is sluggishness and exhaustion, which negatively affects performance. Complex carbohydrates and protein are a better way to go."

Here are nine tips from Dr. Lemke to keep your kids in peak performance and foster youth sports safety through proper nutrition:

1 Keep children hydrated: Studies show that water or lightly sweetened, non-carbonated beverages help prevent fatigue and dehydration.

2 Protect the brain: A new Journal of Neurosurgery study suggests that eating foods rich in Omega 3's twice a week "“ such as tuna or salmon "“ is not only heart-healthy, but may help protect against concussions.

3 Pre-game snacks: Keep kids' muscles working with a piece of fruit to provide a small blood sugar spike without the crash.

4 Immediately after a game: For quick muscle recovery give children a high-protein snack or drink.

5 One or two hours after play: Give your child a high complex carbohydrate, moderate protein meal to foster muscle recovery.

6 Calcium: The National Institutes of Health recommends 1300mg of calcium per day for children.

7 Vitamin D: 400 to 800 daily units of vitamin D are recommended. Sources include dairy products such as cheese, eggs, and milk, almonds, calcium-fortified cereals and juices, liver, saltwater fish, soy drinks, tofu, and supplements.

8 Eat real food: Fresh foods are always better than sports supplements when planning regular meals. When in a hurry, pack nutritious lunches and sandwiches rather than swinging by a fast food outlet. If it has to be fast food, make it fresh rather than fried-food places.

9 Sports injury recovery: Carbohydrate and protein increases provide the additional ingredients necessary to replace or repair damaged tissue.

For more on youth sports safety visit www.stopsportsinjuries.org.

Sharon K. Schreiber, CEO of BrandWeavers ®, provides experienced brand leadership and collaborative marketing opportunities for physician groups, corporations focused on employee health, and wellness community outreach ventures. Schreiber is also a principal at Healthy-TXT, a physician-designed platform that delivers relevant and valuable content to subscribers, improving patient satisfaction, providing patient education on treatment regimens and healthy lifestyle, and effecting positive behavioral change.