What Should I Feed My Young Athlete?

It’s official, Fall sports are under way. To millions of parents, Fall is full of dropping off/picking up kids at practice and enduring lots of very cold games. You’re a tough group, and we salute you! While we can’t help with the driving or cold weather, we can help with getting your kids primed for the field. We asked our licensed nutritionist to give some tips about what to put in the diet of your little athlete. Hopefully, you can use these tips to help your child grow, develop, and perform on the field!

Step 1: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

It all starts with lots of fluids. To avoid dehydration, be sure to include low-fat milk and water with meals. Kids produce more body heat, sweat less and dehydrate more easily than adults, so young athletes should sip water throughout their workouts.

Step 2: Give the right “pre-game” meal before exercise

For best results, a pre-exercise meal should be consumed 2-3 hours before exercising. Ideally, this meal will be high in carbohydrates and moderate in protein and healthy fats. Here are some examples of pre-exercise meals that will let them fire on all cylinders:

  • A baked potato with a little cheese (don’t go overboard), chicken, baked beans, and fresh fruit
  • A turkey, chicken, or tuna sandwich on whole wheat bread
  • Hamburger made with extra lean beef, loaded with lettuce and tomatoes
  • Low-sugar cereals or oatmeal, with milk and fruit 
  • Spaghetti with tomato based sauce and extra lean beef, steamed vegetables, and citrus fruit 

Step 3: Provide high-carb snacks to eat immediately before or during exercise

A pre-exercise snack can be eaten within an hour of exercise. You’ll want this snack to be pretty light and easy to digest. These snacks should be heavy in carbohydrates and low in added sugar to give your child sustained energy on the field. Let your child experiment with different foods to discover which snacks provide the best energy. Here are some ideas for pre-exercise snacks:

  • Fresh or dried fruit
  • Wheat toast with a little honey
  • Pancakes with syrup or fresh fruit
  • Graham crackers or whole wheat fig bars
  • Cereal or granola bars

 Step 4: Recovery

Recovery foods are just as important as the foods eaten before exercise. Eating a snack with carbohydrates and a small amount of protein immediately after a long workout can help restore energy in muscles. For ideal results, offer your athlete a recovery snack immediately after exercise, and follow it up with a nourishing recovery meal within the next couple of hours. Here are some ideas for recovery snacks:

  • Milk (chocolate milk is great immediately after exercise)
  • Yogurt based fruit smoothie
  • Yogurt and a whole wheat bagel or English muffin
  • Brown rice and beans, or a low-fat bean burrito
  • Vegetable stir-fry with brown rice

To all the parents out there, if you have a proven food or drink that does wonders for your child, please share your tips here.

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  1. A Week of “Awesomeness” for Kids! | Million Ideas

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