8 Gameday Nutritional Tips For Young Athletes

8 Gameday Nutritional Tips For Young Athletes

Do you have young athletes in your family? Feeding them requires knowledge and planning. Not only do they need optimal nutrition for nourishment and recovery after training, but they also need to meet energy requirements for growth and maturation. Help your kids get the nutrients they need by focusing on family meals before and after practice or on game day.

Nutrition for everyday athletes

  • Focus on carbohydrates for energy. Choose cereal, crackers, pasta, potatoes, and whole grain bread for lasting energy. Save on sports drinks for an energy boost during endurance sports or workouts over an hour.
  • Distribute protein foods. Active bodies need protein to support growth and to build and repair hard working muscles. Young athletes should distribute protein foods throughout the day, eating it with every meal and with most snacks, such as eggs and whole grain toast with fruit for breakfast or a sandwich with protein. Low sodium deli meats on whole grain bread with vegetable yogurt for lunch. Plant-based protein foods like beans and tofu are also great choices.
  • Be careful with fatty foods. Fatty foods slow down digestion, which is not ideal for an athlete facing a competition. Fatty and fried foods and fatty desserts are filling and can leave your athlete feeling tired and lazy. Avoid pre-workout fries or pizza and keep the fat content on the light side.
  • Eat with food safety in mind. Nothing will slow down your athlete more than food poisoning – stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea after eating. Be sure to store snacks at appropriate temperatures to prevent spoilage. Store cheese, yogurt, meat, eggs, and mayonnaise-based salads in a refrigerator or cooler. Long-life items such as nuts, granola bars, and whole fruit can be tossed into a gym bag with no problem.
  • Pour with fluids. Proper hydration should start early in the day before children even set foot on the playing field. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water during the day before a game, especially in the two to four hours before the game. . Continue to drink during play (about 1/2 cup every 15 minutes) and thereafter to rehydrate yourself after a loss of sweat. Water should always be the drink of choice for children for exercises under 60 minutes. Workouts longer than an hour may require a sports drink to replace electrolytes lost from heavy sweating.
  • Timing is everything. It takes two to three hours for your body to digest a regular meal like breakfast or lunch before a sporting event, while a small snack like a granola bar can be eaten 30 minutes to an hour earlier. Load up at meals, but don’t overeat and keep snacks light as game time approaches.
  • Complete with milk. Along with water, skim and skim milk are also smart ways to help young athletes meet their fluid needs. But that’s not all. A single cup of milk contains 8 grams of protein per serving. It also provides important nutrients that most young athletes do not get enough of, such as calcium, which is essential for building strong bones, transmitting nerve impulses and contracting muscles, as well as potassium for water balance.

Eating well on match day is your athlete’s secret weapon for top notch performance in any sport. Here’s an example of a match day nutrition plan:

  • Pre-game breakfast. Gather the family for a pre-game breakfast about three hours before the event. Serve sliced, lightly grilled potatoes with scrambled eggs and fruits such as berries with 100% calcium-fortified fruit juice or fat-free milk for a nutritious pre-game meal.
  • Don’t load light or skip lunch. Many student-athletes compete after school, making breakfast a vital source of fuel. Breakfast should be generous and include foods from as many food groups as possible, such as whole grains, lean protein sources, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products.
  • During play / training. Make sure your child stays hydrated before, during and after training and competitions. Dehydration occurs when your athletic child fails to adequately replace the fluid lost through sweating. Dehydration that exceeds 2% body weight loss impairs physical performance, so make sure your child is well hydrated throughout play with small amounts of water. Remind your child to replace fluid loss after exercise with plenty of water. Also look for foods such as bananas, potatoes, and non-fat or low-fat yogurt or milk. They contain potassium and carbohydrates which are important for replenishing after exercise.
  • Afternoon snack after training or in the afternoon. The hours after training or a competition on weekdays may require a snack before your family dinner. Make sure you have pre-made snacks when your kids arrive home hungry after a tough after-school practice or game. This can include fresh sliced fruit, low fat yogurt, and smoothies.
  • Post-game family dinner. For a tasty and filling family dinner after the game, include all five food groups: protein, grains, vegetables, fruit and dairy. Serve baked or grilled lean cuts of meat, poultry and seafood, such as chicken breast, salmon or tuna. Include whole grains, for example whole wheat pasta with low fat tomato or cheese sauce. Add the vegetables or include a green salad on the side. Then complete your meal with fruit for dessert, such as baked apples or pears accompanied by a glass of skim or skim milk. Or create an instant yogurt parfait with layers of low fat vanilla yogurt, fresh, frozen or canned fruit and crispy whole grain cereal.

Nutrition For Growing Bodies


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