When it comes to your kids, you’d do anything to help them succeed… in the classroom, in their relationships, in life. So, why not on the basketball court, soccer field, swimming pool, or whichever sport they’ve fallen in love with? They may have the best equipment, participate in extra training lessons, and put in 110% during every practice and event. But, is this enough? Is there something missing?
It’s no secret that your child is growing. In order to function in their sport, improve performance, and promote recovery, kids need food to help support the increased energy requirements. This ultimately means more planning and more groceries!
Follow these guidelines to fuel your superstar during the week, before the game/event, and after the game/event.
Eat a good-sized meal at least three hours before the event. This gives the tummy time to process all the food to prepare it as fuel. Have a light balanced meal with some carbs and fats. These will sustain you throughout your exercise! Carbs and fats are both great fuel sources, and the fats digest slower to help keep you feeling full. Pick foods that digest well to avoid any nausea or upset stomach. Don’t forget to drink some water to start off hydrated!
- Breakfast Ideas: fruit, lightly sautéed potatoes, scrambled eggs, or toast with nut butter or smashed avocado
- Lunch Ideas: turkey or ham sandwich (avoid fatty cheeses and condiments), peanut butter and jelly, fruit, pretzels, or cereal
- Snack 30 minutes before the event: peanut butter crackers, granola bars, fruit snacks, or goldfish crackers
During Practice and Games
For exercise lasting less than an hour, sip on some water to stay hydrated. For exercise lasting longer than an hour, a sports drink like Gatorade or Powerade will help replenish lost carbohydrates and electrolytes. For longer lasting activities or day trips, bring along some easy to eat snacks with lots of carbs, and some fats and proteins. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and granola bars are great options!
After exercise, it’s important to recover, refuel, and re-hydrate. Protein will help our muscles recover while carbohydrates will help refuel for the next activity. Drink plenty of fluids to rehydrate! Good choices for quick, easy snacks include chocolate milk, peanut butter crackers, cheese sticks, bananas, apple slices with peanut butter, or smoothies with or without protein.
Dinner Plate After Practice and Games
- Grains/Carbs: Should take up roughly 35% of the plate
- Lean Protein: Should take up roughly 25% of the plate
- Fruits and Veggies: Should take up roughly 40% of the plate
- Hydration: Focus on replenishing lost electrolytes and fluid loss
Components of a well-balanced meal include:
- Meat & poultry – great protein sources for recovery. Pair it with a carb!
- Whole grains, fruit, pasta, rice, potatoes – great carb sources to complement your protein. These will help replace the energy you burned during exercise.
- Water, milk, and fruits will help replenish fluids lost during exercise.
Eating right not only on game day but throughout the week will do wonders for your child’s athletic performance. Not only that, it will set them up to be successful and healthy adults in the future!
Guest contributors: Patrick Burns and E. Jane Watts, Dietetic Interns from Florida State University’s Department of Food, Nutrition, and Exercise Sciences
The use of trade names in this post is solely for the purpose of providing specific information. It is not a guarantee, warranty, or endorsement of the product.
Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. Ellis, E. (2020). Hydrate Right. https://www.eatright.org/fitness/sports-and-performance/hydrate-right/hydrate-right
American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, American College of Sports Medicine,
Rodriguez, N. R., Di Marco, N. M., & Langley, S. (2009). American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Nutrition and athletic performance. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 41(3), 709–731.