Purpose of review: There is a growing interest in the field of pediatric sports nutrition because of the will to lead the child athlete to high achievements, with minimal impairment of growth and development. In this article, we review some of the new data concerning the possible short-term and long-term effects of nutrition on children's performance, current and future health.
Recent findings: Growing children engaged in strenuous exercise have several physiologic and metabolic characteristics that distinguish them from adults and require specific nutritional considerations. There is currently not enough evidence to support either carbohydrate loading or increased protein intake in the diet of the child athlete. Creatine use, although common among youth, is not recommended. Adequate hydration is essential to optimal performance. Consumption of iron-rich foods should be encouraged, as depleted iron stores are common in young athletes. In female athletes, nutritional deficiencies could lead to athletic amenorrhea and bone loss, and the resolution of energy deficits can restore normal bone formation and the return of menses.
Summary: In the highly competitive world of the child athlete, proper nutrition is of essence. Unfortunately, most of the knowledge in this field is based on adult literature. Age-specific research would lead to a better understanding of what constitutes 'a healthy diet' in the context of the growing athlete and may be a first step toward achieving these necessary insights.