Fueling Young Athletes

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Before, During and After the Game!

I have always made fun of soccer moms.  I refused to be that mom with the mini-van full of other people's kids, driving like a mad-woman hoping my kid was somewhere in car.  I have always wondered why "soccer" moms wore clothes that didn't really match and seem to walk around in a daze of happiness. Well, I may not have the mini-van but I am definitely THAT soccer mom!

Once you are knee deep in kids sports, the next concern isn't the uniform they are wearing but what they are eating.  You have to keep your kids fueled and ready before, during and after each game.  This goes for any sport your kids are involved in.  Not only should young athletes stay fueled but you have to remember they are still growing as well, so you have to understand it's more than just keeping a water bottle in their sports bag.

In this day and age, kids are competing at a much higher level.  We have seen how serious sports have become for kids since Tiger Woods won his first major in 1997.  Pressure to win and be the best starts as early as 9 and 10 years old! If you are at this level of training, you have know how to fuel your kids.

First, you need to feed your kid 2 to 3 hours before competition.  This gives the body time to take in, digest and feed their little muscles.  Check out these recommendations below:

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 and lunch are important

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

Evening sports=  all of the healthy meals listed above plus an early light supper would be perfect

Next, getting fast food burgers, donuts or any oily foods before a game are not good for a growing athlete and you know this!  These types of foods will weigh a kid down and if they contain high levels of sugar or salt, your kids can become dehydrated or experience an upset stomach.

Good food choices include the following:

1) Whole grain breads, pasta, cereal, bagels and even pancakes.  

2) 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.  

3) 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!

Nic

 

Nicol A Hodges

Nicol A. Hodges aka "Nic" is fitness professional (NASM, CPT/PES) and product designer living in San Diego, CA. Nicol's athletic background started in her hometown of St. Charles, MO where she earned her 400m state ranking 3 years in a row. Later, at the University of MO, Columbia she earned 8-Big 12 Track and Field titles and a championship title. Nicol currently continues her love for running by competing in local and national running events.