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The Importance of Vitamins, Minerals & Supplements for a Young Rower

by Jill Castle, MS, RDN | Feb 23, 2016
Vitamins and minerals can be an important tool for a young rower's exercise performance when used correctly. While many rowers get an adequate supply of nutrients through a balanced diet, vitamins and mineral supplements can be used as an insurance policy against poor food choices and eating behaviors.

Vitamins and minerals are undoubtedly an important component to exercise performance. They help the body use food, assist in efficient energy use, and supply important factors for growth and development. There are 14 vitamins and over 22 minerals that keep the “engine” in the young rowers body humming along.

Vitamin and mineral supplements are often used as an insurance policy against poor food choices or eating behaviors.

They have also been advertised as providing a boost of energy, improving endurance in19594010068_a97603bb34_k (1) athletic endeavors, and offering up peak performance, but few of these claims, if any, have been substantiated in the research. Up to 94% of young athletes who reported using supplements use vitamin and mineral combination supplements to enhance sports performance, according to a 2012 U. S. National Health Interview Study. 

For many rowers, adequate vitamins and minerals can be obtained from a healthy, balanced diet consisting of whole foods like fruit, vegetables, dairy products or non-dairy substitutes, meat, fish and beans, and whole grains. Additionally, many commercially-made foods are fortified with extra nutrients, such as ready-to-eat cereal (folate, calcium, and iron), milk (vitamin D), bread (folate and sometimes calcium) and orange juice (calcium and vitamin D), making the quest for a diet rich in vitamins and minerals easy to achieve.

On the flip side, there may be young rowers who are at a higher risk for poor micronutrient intake due to their eating habits. In this case, a multivitamin and mineral supplement may benefit their health and athletic performance. 

Here are some common reasons why a multivitamin supplement may be advantageous for the young rower: 

The rower is underweight or has a low body weight.

A rower who is below his expected body weight for his age and stage of development may benefit from a multivitamin supplement. When calorie intake is lower than required and growth is stagnating, micronutrient intake may suffer as well.

The rower is a picky or selective eater. 

Some young rowers may be picky, shunning whole food groups such as vegetables, meat or dairy, which can set them up for inadequate consumption of nutrients such as vitamin A, iron, zinc, calcium and vitamin D. 

The rower makes poor food choices, often.

A diet with too many high-calorie, low nutrient foods, such as chips, cookies, desserts, and fried foods may lead to high calorie consumption but a low intake of vitamins and minerals.

The rower has a food allergy.

Rowers with a food allergy or multiple food allergies may be at risk for nutrient deficiencies, especially if they avoid whole food groups such as milk and dairy products, which places calcium and vitamin D at risk. Those with more than one food allergy are at the highest risk for nutrient deficiencies, as well as growth problems. 

The rower is a restrictive eater.

Rowers who are very careful about food selection and the quantities of food they eat in order to control or lose weight may miss out on important nutrients, particularly iron, calcium and vitamin D. Young athletes who diet to shed pounds may sacrifice important nutrients while cutting calories. 

The rower has a known nutrient deficiency.

A swimmer who has a documented nutrient deficiency, such as iron deficiency, will need a nutrient supplement. This is typically diagnosed and prescribed by a healthcare provider and may be in the form of a single nutrient supplement or a multivitamin and mineral supplement.

In general, if it appears the young rower has a condition that may benefit from a multivitamin supplement, always double-check with your healthcare provider and be sure to use a supplement that offers no more than 100% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA).

Jill Castle, MS, RDN is a registered dietitian, childhood nutritionist, and youth sports nutrition expert. She is the author of Eat Like a Champion: Performance Nutrition for Your Young Athlete. Learn more about Jill at www.JillCastle.com and check out her free list of 70 Awesome Pre-Workout Snacks for Kids here.

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