When children engage in competitive sports, they will need to eat differently in order to fuel their bodies. Not getting enough food is a common problem for young athletes and could have adverse effects on their health in and out of the pool.
In an article on USA Swimming's website, registered dietician Jill Castle advised parents to be on the lookout for the following signs that may indicate malnourishment:
- Lack of growth – Long-tern deficiencies in certain nutrients could affect a child's growth. If your swimmer seems to be below average height for someone his or her age, you'll want to act as quickly as possible.
- Fatigue – Swimming is a physically demanding sport, but the activity on its own should not be cause of chronic tiredness. Poor eating habits can make fatigue even worse and promote an unhealthy cycle of exercise and exhaustion.
- Poor performance in the pool - It your athlete is training hard, but seems to have worsening race times, they may not be getting enough fuel to succeed.
- Sleep problems – Working hard makes it easier for someone to fall asleep, right? According to Castle, poor nutrition is linked to shorter sleep duration. She noted, however, that more research is necessary to figure out how athletes fit into the equation.
- Sudden weight loss – Young athletes need to maintain the same weight or possibly gain weight in order to stay healthy. If your child is dropping a significant amount of weight, you may want to keep a closer eye on what they are eating.
Don't forget that your young swimmer needs more than a racing swimsuit to stay competitive in the pool!