Easy nutrition tips to help enhance your child's athletic performance

By Mike Coval

Credit: Flickr

ANN ARBOR - School is back in session, fall sports are in full swing, and you might be wondering what you can do to give your young athlete that extra "edge" this fall.

When it comes to improving athletic performance, the majority of the focus lies within what your child can do in the weight room in order to improve out on the court, and for good reason! There’s a lot of good athletic qualities that can be built and transferred to the game.

However, one area that often gets neglected is nutrition. It’s unfortunate, as an athlete is only going to be able to push their body as far as the quality of food that they’re putting in their body.  

The goal of this article is to help you look at nutrition from a different perspective that will help enhance your athlete’s performance, both on and off the field.

It All Starts With You
"Little Jonny doesn’t eat healthy."
The truth of the matter is "Little Jonny doesn’t eat healthy" equals Mom and Dad don’t buy healthy food and bring it into the home and therefore aren’t setting the right example.

You are the role models for what the expectation is when it comes to what your kids put into their mouths. Like it or not, you are setting the bar.

I know it can be extremely difficult to balance work, family, running your kids around to extracurriculars, finding time for yourself and everything else that goes into your day-to-day.  And I’m sure that it can feel like eating healthy is impossible, but I can assure you that is not.  It just requires a little bit of planning.

The good news is that there are a lot of different strategies that you can use!

Some examples of what you can do are:

  • Set one to two times per week that you plan and prep meals as a family.
  • If schedule is a limiting factor, then opting for a healthy meal delivery service may be the way to go. Kettlebell Kitchen, Icon Meals and Plated are all good options for you to try.
  • Create weekly menus that make meal prepping more fun and engaging for the entire family

You’re only limited by your own creativity on this one. Try and involve the family as much as you can. It might be something that you need to dive into on your own, the rest of the family sees the results that you’re getting, and then they (including your athlete) want to start eating healthy, too.

Keep it Simple
Nutrition can be super confusing for most people (and sport nutrition even more confusing).  I always say that the beauty of the internet is that there is so much information out there.  On the other hand, the scary part about the internet is that there is so much information out there; anybody can write what they want and it all it takes is for a small audience to start spreading that information as truth.  Before you know it, things are out of control and you don’t know what to believe!

Credit: Pixabay



With all of that said, use these guidelines to keep things simple.

Each meal, your athlete should strive for the following:
  • One to two servings of a thumb-sized portion of healthy fat source (i.e. avocado, all natural nut butter, extra virgin olive oil).
  • One to two palm-sized portions of a lean protein source (i.e. skinless chicken, ground turkey, whey protein powder).
  • One to two handfuls of a healthy carb source (i.e. sweet potato, white potato, whole grain pasta).
  • Unlimited amounts of veggies.

Liquids consumed should mostly be water. Dairy milk (for bone health), unsweetened teas, and sport drinks (for competition only) can be implemented as well.  

Your athlete should strive to eat this way at least 80% of the time.  

Pizza, burgers and ice cream are just fine from time to time. After all, they’re kids!  

Just remember to keep it simple and apply the 80% rule.

Get Support from Trusted Professionals
"It’s so funny, I tell them that all of the time, but they never listen to me. Now you tell them, and they start doing it!"

How many times have you said that line? Probably more times than you care to count!

Know that you aren’t alone on this one. This is typical of teenage athletes.

This additional "voice" can come in the form of a strength and conditioning professional, their sport coach, a nutritionist or some other professional who is a valuable part of your athlete's "team."

There you go, now you’re equipped with three real-world nutrition strategies to help your child’s athletic performance!


Mike Coval, BS Exercise Science, CSCS is fitness & performance coach and owner of COVAL in Ann Arbor, MI. COVAL provides individualized, expert coaching in fitness, nutrition, lifestyle, and mindset to help you be your best in an environment where you feel like family.

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