When it comes to diet trends, it's nearly impossible to keep up. One minute, juicing is the latest and greatest, and the next time you pick up a magazine, there's a whole new food group to avoid. It can be easy for adults and young athletes alike to assume that the diet trend of the moment is a good idea. But of course, we know that the best diet is a healthy, balanced, sustainable one—and that rarely are trends healthy in the long term.
Another thing to keep in mind: How you eat and how you talk about your body and your food will impact your athlete, whether you mean it to or not. It's also important to note that a diet that is healthy for you may not be the right one for an athletic, growing child. "What you do as an adult does not apply to your kids, especially if they are active," says TrueSport Expert Kristen Ziesmer, a registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in sports dietetics. If you are on a specific diet for some reason, make sure your athlete understands that they don’t need to eat exactly like you.
An athlete hopping on a diet trend may also be trying to lose weight in an unhealthy way, so if you notice your athlete suddenly becoming interested in a juice cleanse, intermittent fasting, or a restrictive diet, that could be a warning sign of unhealthy behavior. In fact, research has shown that as many as 35 percent of dieters will progress into disordered eating.
Here are a few trendy diets that have popped up in recent years that your athlete should skip.
Low Carb or Keto Diet
A low carbohydrate or ketogenic diet that focuses primarily on fat for fuel, with some protein, can be disastrous for young athletes from a caloric, hormonal, and metabolic standpoint. "Young athletes definitely need that balanced plate, which includes carbs. And as their activity level increases, the carb requirements go up," explains Ziesmer. "A low-carb or keto diet is meant for a sedentary person, and again, definitely not for a kid. In fact, kids actually function more off glucose and carbohydrates than adults do."
But remember, balance is key. Ziesmer notes that fat is also a critical macronutrient, and that the amount needed also goes up the more active your athlete is. And protein should be a constant, with a few palm-sized servings spread throughout the day.
About the Author
TrueSport®, a movement powered by the experience and values of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, champions the positive values and life lessons learned through youth sport. TrueSport inspires athletes, coaches, parents, and administrators to change the culture of youth sport through active engagement and thoughtful curriculum based on cornerstone lessons of sportsmanship, character-building, and clean and healthy performance, while also creating leaders across communities through sport. For more expert-driven articles and materials, visit TrueSport’s comprehensive LEARN resource.