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Fueling Young Athletes: Q & A with Heather Mangieri


Whether your kids play sports for fun or camaraderie or pursue athletics in a more serious, goal-oriented way, the new book Fueling Young Athletes (Human Kinetics, 2017) by Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Heather Mangieri is a must read. 

I had the pleasure of discussing the book with Mangieri. Read on to learn more about her work and this wonderful resource to help any young athlete you know eat well to support optimal performance on the field and in the classroom.  (I personally cannot wait to share it with both of my basketball playing sons!)

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Food, Fitness & Fiction: What inspired you to write this book?

HM: I started my sports nutrition practice, Nutrition Checkup, in 2008 never expecting to specialize in younger athletes. As my clientele of high school athletes grew, I started to get the same questions over and over again from parents and coaches. One day I decided to compile a list of suggested resources to share with my clients and their parents, and I realized that there was not much out there. I was hard pressed to find an up-to-date book with relevant, evidence-based information that I could recommend. That’s when I decided I would write that book myself. Believe it or not, my note taking for this book began over four years ago. Since that time, a lot has changed in the world of sports nutrition. I am so excited to be able to share the most up-to-date information to help young athletes eat and perform their best. 

Food, Fitness & Fiction: You talk about the importance of understanding developmental age versus chronological age. How does that play a role in putting together a sports nutrition plan?

HM: Youth sports is not what it used to be. Children are starting competitive sports much younger and the demands and expectations are much greater than they used to be. But young athletes are not small adults and putting demands on a child who is not developmentally ready can have devastating effects, not only to growth, development and performance, but also to their self-esteem.

The adolescent years are a time of extraordinary growth and development, but all kids develop at different rates. It’s very possible to have two different athletes of the same chronological age at very different stages of growth and development. Not only do children begin puberty at varying ages, both males and females can face different struggles with their growing bodies. The changes that occur can affect how they look and feel about themselves, especially as they compare themselves to their teammates. Parents and coaches usually notice the physical changes but they are not always sure if the changes are normal or how to address them.  

Food, Fitness & Fiction: What sets your book apart from other sports nutrition books?

HM: As a sports dietitian, I get a lot of the same questions over and over again: What should my child eat before, during and after a game? What should I feed my child the evening before an event? What type of protein supplement should he/she take?  These are all great questions that I answer, but this book goes way beyond game day and addresses what to do every day.  

In the book, I literally walk the reader through developing their own individualized sports nutrition plan. I share with readers the same information I share with my one-on-one clients. The only difference is that in my office, I do the calculations myself; in the book, I walk the reader through how to put a sports nutrition plan together by themselves. Though it can get technical, it will open their eyes to what it takes to put a proper plan together. It’s a lot more than simply adding up “macros,” which we hear a lot of about today. It’s about building a plan based on individual age, gender, sport, level of training and most importantly goals.

This is the first sports nutrition book for this population that was written by a board certified sports dietitian. 

Food, Fitness & Fiction: Of all of the information in the book, what do you expect parents, coaches and athletes to find the most useful?

HM: This book includes the most up-to-date information on all things sports nutrition, from the latest research on protein balance and timing to the latest trends in dietary supplements in ergogenic aids to everything in between. But all that knowledge, including a perfectly calculated sports nutrition plan, doesn’t do an athlete any good if they can’t figure out how to implement it. I think parents and coaches will find chapter 9 to be the most useful. It addresses the issues that families and athletes most often face, such as late-night practices, inconvenient school lunch times, demanding schedules and eating on the go, lack of sleep and expense of feeding multiple high school athletes. I share over thirty common barriers and provide concrete solutions on how to make it work for the family or team. 

The other very useful part of this book is that I provide specific meal plan examples for different calorie amounts, using  recipes included in the book.  

Food, Fitness & Fiction: Your recipes are broken down into solid fuel and liquid fuel. Can you explain what you mean by those titles?

HM: Young athletes are busy people who often rely on quick, portable fuel such as protein drinks and energy bars to meet their nutritional requirements. The store bought brands can be worked into a meal plan, but by making your own you can individualize the ingredients to your own needs and flavor preferences, and make it work better for your meal plan. It can also save you money.

Sometimes, such as between two sporting events or before a morning practice, liquid fuel is better tolerated than solid fuel. Other athletes may just prefer liquids over solids and others can use liquids to add extra calories without more volume. 

Smoothies are a quick way to get high-quality nutrients between meals, but not all smoothies are created equal. The trick is to make them taste good while keeping them nutritionally balanced.  

The liquid fuel recipes include a variety of homemade smoothies and sports drinks with guidance on how to fit them into the meal plan. 

The solid fuel recipes include a variety of energy bars and portable proteins options that can be made by young athletes themselves. 

I provide the nutrition facts for all of the recipes in my book so that they can easily be fit into the individualized meal plan created earlier in the book.

Most importantly, all of the recipes were tested by athletes that I have worked with over the years as well as my own kids.

To learn more about Mangieri and her book (currently available for preorder here), visit her website.
(Disclosure: No goods or services received in exchange for this post.)
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About The Author

Elisa Zied is a nationally recognized registered dietitian nutritionist, author, speaker, and spokesperson. A trusted source of food, nutrition, and health information, Elisa has garnered millions of media impressions, lending her expertise and real-world perspective to dozens of TV shows, web sites, news organizations and magazines. She’s the author of four nutrition books and is currently working on her first novel. You can find her previous Food, Fitness & Fiction posts here and connect with her on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Facebook.

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