Stumped by the question of what to serve hungry young athletes before and after practices and games? Check out our hit list of energy-boosting, muscle-building, lip-smacking grub that will give them the nutrition their bodies need to stay at the top of their games.
Sports Nutrition Crash Course
Young athletes don’t have the same nutritional needs as elite athletes, but they do need the proper fuel to perform their best. Kids participating in middle school and high school sports often run to their games right after a day of classes, long after lunchtime, leaving them low on energy and pressed for time. For this reason breakfast is a must, lunch can’t be skipped, and a snack leading up to an afternoon sporting event is a really good idea. Before exercising, easily digestible carbs are the best types of snacks – no one needs a bellyache on the field or court. Post-exercise eating is all about recovery of energy stores and repair of tired and worn-out muscles. Here the goal is to replenish with protein, carbs and fluid.
If the window of opportunity before activity is small (as it often is), opt for foods that can be quickly digested and turned into fuel. Smart picks include small bananas or slices of juicy watermelon and granola bars with a modest amount of protein (5 to 10 grams is plenty). If the weather is chilly, sip chicken noodle soup to get both fuel and fluids.
Instead of doughnut holes and brownies, give tired athletes food that will help prepare them for upcoming workouts. Pass out chilled boxes of chocolate milk — it comes complete with protein, fluid, carbs, and essential vitamins, minerals and electrolytes. For something more substantial, pack homemade protein bars, antioxidant-rich smoothies or a tray of sandwiches.
Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.