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Sports Nutrition for Kids


Dear Cory:

My husband and I are both very active. We play competitive recreational sports, exercise with weights and run on a regular basis. For many years now, we’ve been eating organic foods and buying vitamins from the health food store. My question concerns our 3 children, ages 8, 11 & 13. Are the performance supplements you recommend for athletes, such as creatine or whey protein isolate, safe for them to take? Our son plays hockey, and our two girls play volleyball, basketball and compete in track & field.

Of course they’re safe! I’ve raised my three children on exactly the same supplements that Tracy and I use, and have recommended them to hundreds of kids on dozens of sport teams for many years. You don’t need a prescription to buy whey protein or glutamine, nor will you see any special words of “caution” designated for kids on the product labels. You just have to apply common sense and use them correctly.

In our home THE BLENDER RULES! Exercise, participation in sport, whole foods and supplements are a way of life! We all have shakes before and after training or sport activity, and everyone understands the connection between health, good nutrition and top performance. As a parent, that understanding has always been one of my most important goals. Children need the same essential nutrients and biological response modifiers as adults. The variance is not in type, only amount, and in some cases, active growing children need much more than adults, especially sedentary adults. Let me explain.

In 1990, Health Canada released an official document called “The Report of the Scientific Review Committee”. This report includes a summary of Recommended Nutrient Intakes (RNI) for Canadians, and provides a table that calculates specific nutrient quantities based on age and body weight. The table for example, recommends 1100mg of calcium, 40gm of protein, 7mg of vitamin E and 5mcg (200i.u.) of vitamin D, on a daily basis, for a 36kg (80lb) female, 10-12 years of age.

In the 25-49 age category, a woman who weighs 59kg (130lb) is supposed to get 700mg of calcium, 44gm of protein, 6mg of vitamin E and 2.5mcg (100i.u.) of vitamin D, everyday. That’s 36% less calcium, 15% less vitamin E, 50% less vitamin D and 32% less protein (based on grams per kilo) than the younger female. At 36kg the young girl is getting 1.1gm of protein per kilogram of her total body weight per day (if she follows the guide). The 25-49 year old women is consuming 68% of that amount, which is only 0.75gm per kilogram of her total body weight.

The Report also recommends many other nutrients, the amounts of which vary according to age, gender and bodyweight. More iron, magnesium and B12 is recommended to mum, whereas her daughter needs more folic acid, thiamin and niacin. According to this guide, each requires the same amount of zinc and essential fatty acids. My point is that everyone seems to think that children need less vitamins and minerals than adults, and it simply isn’t so. Over caution in the wrong area is causing a massive wave of malnutrition in our children!

Here’s another example. The Report suggests that an infant requires 250% more protein than myself. It recommends that a baby should have 2gm of protein per kilo of body weight per day, but advocates only 0.8gm per kilo of body weight for me as a 43-year-old male. In actual fact however, I need up to 3 grams of protein per kilo of my lean mass to maintain a positive nitrogen balance, as I’m a natural bodybuilder (heavyweight) and a competitive Hammer thrower.

I train with tremendous intensity six days per week year round, and because I’m competing in the World Masters Track & Field Championships this July in Brisbane, Australia, my energy expenditure is even higher due to added plyometrics, sprint training, skill training and hammer throwing practice.

FIRST RULE OF THUMB: Identify the nutritional demands of both the individual and the sport, and supply that demand with the highest quality food and dietary supplements you can get.

As a kid growing up I ate my mum out of house and home. All I could think about was playing sports. Hockey, baseball, lacrosse, basketball, football, soccer, track & field and more hockey - street hockey, roller hockey and ice hockey. Whatever sport was in season, that’s what I was doing. My energy expenditure and calorie consumption was enormous, but my consumption of oxygen due to running and playing so much sport was also very high, probably 20 times higher than most adults.

Today we know that “oxidation”, especially when uncontrolled, is a major cause of joint inflammation, infection and injury in the athletic model. Improving hydration status, eliminating wheat and dairy and taking selective antioxidants for example, almost always ameliorates exercise-induced asthma. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) damage young healthy cells and slowly corrode delicate membranes that surround vital organs. Consuming high amounts of food and air, which active athletic kids do, creates billions of oxygen free radicals, and the situation gets worse if the food, air and water is contaminated.

Tell me the truth. Do you really think that commercial breakfast cereals are nutritious? I KNOW how athletic kids eat in this country and I also know what they want, and there’s no way a diet of hotdogs, pizza pops, doughnuts, hamburgers, fries, chocolate bars, canned soup, macaroni & cheese, potato chips, pop, juice boxes and white bread can compete with a protein shake made of whey protein, The Sport Oil, creatine, glutamine and fresh organic fruit. You may think your kids just “burn off” the junk, but you’re dead wrong. The junk in fact, slowly burns “them” out and sets them up for some real serious health problems.

Athletic kids definitely need extra supplemental antioxidant support, because unless they’re “abnormal” they’re miles away from obtaining sufficient quantities. Do your kids beg for spinach, kale and broccoli? So begin with the basics and a mix of antioxidants, like a good multiple and extra vitamin C, E and coenzyme Q10. Surround your kids with whole food and feed them protein shakes before and after sport. Sport bars are super practical and great in a pinch, but watch out, most of them are loaded with sugar and trans-fatty acids.

My kids don’t eat perfectly, who does? During the first five years of their lives it was great; we controlled everything they ate. We juiced, milled our own flour and fed them organic fruits, vegetables, lentils, lean fresh meats and fish. They ate what we ate. But as kids grow up in the Western world, they get their own minds. Like Billy Graham’s son. He rejected his father completely and created major stress for his parents. In the end he came back, but not until he regained his own senses.

Teenagers experiment with almost everything these days; there’s no end of stimulation from friends, the Internet, school and television. It isn’t all bad, but it can be difficult to rationalize with someone who thinks they’re immortal and all-knowing. So you work with what they give you and hope they’ll appreciate everything down the road, meanwhile, stay focused on health.

SECOND RULE OF THUMB: Keep junk food out of the house and out of harms way, there’s more than enough at their friends house, at Grandma’s place, at school, at the PNE and at the movie theatre.

Invest in a least one water station at home so access to clean filtered water is easy. Most kids (and adults) won’t touch water unless it’s right in their face. And if you really want them to drink water instead of pop & juice (sugar water) don’t stock pop & juice (or milk) in the refrigerator. C’mon, what kid is going to choose water over Kool-aid or apple/orange juice concentrate?

As an alternative, get them into freshly squeezed juices. I use fresh grapefruit juice and the kids like pineapple, apple and carrot. To do it right, you need to buy a juice extractor. We have a Championâ, which also comes with a grain mill attachment. For fresh orange or grapefruit juice, all you need is a small Braunâ citrus juicer. Vitamin C powder is always added. I like the kids to get at least 2-3 grams a day, Tracy and myself, we like 10-15 grams.

Whey protein is a staple in our home, not just because it’s great for athletes and muscle, but also because it’s improves liver function and enhances the immune system. When I eat protein, I want the highest quality possible, so we “stack” regular foods like yogurt and fruit smoothies with a scoop or two, and also mix it into our before and after workout shakes. Whey protein has unquestionable value, and it’s not heat-damaged and ruined like canned tuna or medium well steak.

I’m convinced that the sport supplements I use and design (based on scientific research and safety) are highly efficacious for kids. They’re not steroids, and they are not harmful. What are your kids eating for breakfast, lunch and dinner? Steel cut oats, fresh papaya, wild salmon, steamed organic carrots and large green salads? How long do you think they can last on white bread and sugar before breaking down? Or let me put it another way. How long did you last?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It’s not the supplements sold in health food stores that are killing us or hurting our children, although Health Canada would have you believe otherwise; its physical inactivity, empty food, prescription drugs, environmental chemicals and living without purpose.

I didn’t know anything about nutrition as a kid. I just ate whatever was around and whatever tasted good. But at 17, I developed an interest in biological medicine and food science, and soon discovered the irrefutable connection between eating refined food and the proliferation of degenerative disease. That knowledge changed my life, and today, it’s extending the quality of my life.

My mum certainly wasn’t a sport nutrition expert, and neither were any of my university-trained coaches, nurses or doctors. In fact not once did anyone inform me about the relationship between food, health and sport performance. So don’t rely on the “system”, or at least not 100%. Take your own initiative, do your own research, and you’ll be amazed by what you discover. The politics alone will blow your mind. Get your kids on a good supplement routine even if they resist, ‘cause in the end, after they regain their senses, they will come back.