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African Journal for Physical Activity and Health Sciences

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Nutritional care of the elite child and adolescent athlete: Part I - Energy and nutrient needs

HH Wright

Abstract


This article (the first of two parts) presents a review of the energy, macronutrients and micronutrients needs of young athletes in the light of optimal growth and performance. Maintaining a positive energy
balance is an important nutritional objective for young elite athletes to ensure normal growth and development. The degree of catch-up growth following a negative energy balance will depend on the time and magnitude of the preceding negative energy balance. Energy needs can be calculated from various formulas or usual energy intake can be adapted to achieve individualized need e.g. weight gain, loss, or maintenance. Growth should be monitored using growth charts and body composition can be
assessed with skin folds or body fat percentages. Anthropometric measurements should be limited to twice yearly and too much emphasis on an ideal body weight is discouraged. Young athletes should
consume a diet moderate to high (±50%) daily energy intake (TE)) in micronutrient dense carbohydrate-rich foods, 12 - 15% TE of protein-rich foods and ±30% TE from healthy dietary fats. Iron and calcium are most likely to be low in the diets of young elite athletes. A daily iron intake of 8.0 mg in children 9 - 13 years and 11-15 mg for adolescent males and females, respectively are recommended. Children 9 - 13 years and adolescents should ingest 1300 mg calcium per day which
can be achieved by having ~3 milk and/or dairy servings per day.



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