As a sports nutritionist, I commonly counsel runners and other athletes who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder—generally referred to as ADHD (or ADD). ADHD is characterized by hyperactivity, impulsivity, and/or inattention. It affects 4-10% of all American children and an estimated 4.4% of adults (ages 18-44 years). ADHD usually peaks when kids are 7 or 8 years old. Some of the ADHD symptoms diminish with maturation but 65-85% of the kids with ADHD go on to become adults with ADHD.
Ideally, endurance athletes with ADHD get the help they need to learn how to manage their time and impulsiveness. Unfortunately, many youth athletes with ADHD just receive a lot of negative feedback because they have difficulty learning rules and strategies. This frustrates teammates and coaches. Older athletes with ADHD often run to reduce their excess energy, calm their anxiety, and help them focus on the task at hand. This article offers nutrition suggestions that might help coaches, friends, and parents, as well as runners with ADHD, learn how to calm the annoying ADHD behaviors.
To date, no clear scientific evidence indicates ADHD is caused by diet, and no specific dietary regime has been identified that resolves ADHD. High quality ADHD research is hard to do because the added attention given to research subjects with ADHD (as opposed to the special diet) can encourage positive behavior changes. But we do know that when & what a person eats plays a significant role in ADHD management and is an important complementary treatment in combination with medication.
For more information about ADHD in kids, teens, and adults, please use these resources:
—Feeding the Child with ADHD—a -podcast with Jill Castle RD
—Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) – a national resource center
Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD counsels both fitness exercisers and competitive athletes in the Boston-area (Newton; 617-795-1875). Her best-selling Sports Nutrition Guidebook is a popular resource, as is her online sports nutrition workshop. Visit NancyClarkRD.com for info.
Owner at Beginner Triathlete, web marketing consultant at SiteInSight, writer, entrepreneur, advocate for unstructured nature play for kids.