Fueling your Young Athletes

If you have active kids, you are probably knee deep in kids sports. The practices, the traveling schedule, carpools and making sure they have all their gear ready for game day. It all adds up but the one thing parents tend to fall short on is what those little gremlins need to eat before, during and after the game.  Kids have to be properly fueled in order to play at their best. Below are some quick tips to fuel the athletes in your house and it's worked for my girls for over 10 years!


Feed your young athlete approximately 1-2 hours before competition.  

This gives the body plenty of time to digest and feed their little muscles. If time is of the essence, a quick protein snack 25 minutes before practice or a game will work too!

EARLY Saturday games = Bed time the night before is a bit earlier so they can rise and shine to fuel their bodies well before the game.

Early to Mid-afternoon games= Healthy breakfast (scrambled eggs, whole grain toast and grapes) and lunch (good old fashion PB&J or half a turkey sandwich w/spinach, mustard and a slice of cheddar cheese).

Late-afternoon games= Light afternoon snack (peanut butter and crackers, low sugar protein bars or fruit with crackers/bread)

Evening sports=  Nothing heavy. Again, simple sandwiches without a lot of dressings and a side of carrots would be perfect before a late game. 

Good food choices include the following:

  • Whole grain breads, pasta, cereal, bagels and even pancakes.  
  • A modest amount of low-fat protein in pre-game meals like low-fat milk, yogurt, an egg or chicken (grilled, not fried like high fat chicken nuggets) are great choices.  
  • Juices with low acidic levels, applesauce, grapes and bananas can keep kids moving throughout the game and particularly for the second half.    
  • Last, keep your kids hydrated.  Dehydration is uncomfortable, slows down performance and at times can be dangerous.  Here are suggestions I wish I had when I was a young athlete.

Pre-game: one to two cups of water (20-30 minutes before performance.

During the game: stay hydrated preferably with water or a low sugar sports drink.  Many sports drinks out there have too much sugar and can upset the stomach.   

After game time:  drink as much water as possible and refuel with a low sugar sports drink.  AVOID sports drinks that contain over 5% (approximately 14 grams) of sugar / soft drinks and juices can contain 10% sugar (about 25 grams).

You want your kids to be successful in sports, so start early and teach them how to take care of themselves by teaching them good eating habits on and off the court or field or "whatever they play on"! Happy Competition, Lil' Ones!

Good luck! Nic