Gymnasts, Nutrition and Diets


I’m 12 years old and have been doing gymnastics for a couple of years now. My weight right now is fine and I’m not into losing much weight but I had a question about what gymnasts should eat. For example, both my parents and myself have noticed that I have been eating nonstop lately, I always seem to be hungry! I asked my dad why he thought that was and he said it was probably because of gymnastics and that I wasn’t getting the right kinds of food to fill me up and build muscle and strength. So what I was emailing to ask you was, what kinds of food should I eat and when? I’ve heard a lot about the low-carb, high protein diet but I still need help finding foods like that. Could you please help me with that? Thanks for reading, hope to hear from you.


Actually, when girls of your age have this very common nonstop eating behavior, it is most often because of impending body changes. Many girls your age go through puberty and many have growth spurts. Both can cause that nonstop eating behavior you mentioned. Your body needs food, calories and nutrients to deal with those changes. Eating in these cases is the right thing to do for your body, even if it is not always convenient for your gymnastics.

Growth spurts increase your body weight. This makes perfect sense. If you are at one weight and you grow two or more inches taller, it is only logical and right to assume that you are going to weigh more. If you didn’t weigh more, your body proportions would change in strange ways. For example if you grow taller and don’t gain any weight, you end up looking noticeably thinner and less athletic looking.

It is also possible that your dad is right. If you are doing a noticeable larger amount of conditioning, especially like running, you could be experiencing an increase in appetite from that.

I personally take and recommend that my gymnasts take a complete set of vitamins and minerals to supplement their eating. It is often difficult for busy gymnasts and teenagers to get a completely balanced nutritional intake (I was going to say completely balanced diet, but keep on reading). The hectic lifestyle of a gymnast, especially during the school year, often makes it difficult to get or even track whether they are getting all of the food groups that they need every day.

The problem with vitamins and minerals is that in many cases they are often not easily absorbed into the body’s systems in pill form. Vitamin and mineral pills often pass right through the body without being absorbed or fully absorbed. Liquid formulations of vitamins and minerals have a better record, but are often more expensive. I use some special tea tree oil products and you can tell they are working because 2 – 6 weeks after you start taking them you feel a noticeable increase in energy.

I do not believe any 12 year old gymnast should even have the word diet in their vocabulary including the low-carb, high protein diet or any other diet. Diets do not work, in fact they are a big factor in weight problems.

You and your friends should learn to eat a variety of fresh, healthy foods first emphasizing fruits and vegetables. Breads and other carbs and proteins including meats should be eaten in moderation. Anything you eat should be eaten in moderation.

The best rules for eating to ensure you don’t overeat are relatively simple:

When you are hungry, Eat.
Eat slowly, paying full attention to what you are eating and how it tastes.
As you eat, keep in touch with the feelings in your body.
When you begin to feel full, stop eating.

In order to keep in touch with your body while you are eating, there are some rules also.
When you eat, don’t do anything else. Don’t eat while you are driving (oh, yeah, 12 year olds don’t drive), watching TV, reading, while listening to music or anything else that may distract you from paying close attention to whether your body is beginning to feel full.

Always eat when you are hungry and always stop when you begin to think you are getting full. If you are not full, you can always eat more later.

As you get in tune with your body, you will find that you may eat anything you want in moderation as long as you stop eating when fullness begins.

You can already imagine yourself eating natural foods and how good fresh fruits can taste. Avoid foods that have many artificial ingredients. Drink enough water to cleanse your system and keep you hydrated for practice.

If you find yourself in a situation where your strength to body weight ratio is not where you want it (and growth spurts can put you there), then increase your aerobic/running level of exercise. The most effective calorie burning exercises alternate 60 – 90 second of all out running or aerobic exercises with 3 – 4 minutes of rest or slow walking. Do 7 – 9 sets like that and you will burn up any excess calories that you don’t want in three or more sessions per week.

Hope that helps. Feel free to contact me if you have any more questions. Good luck.

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