All too often, we complain about how inactive this generation has become. With all the technological options keeping so many occupied, it’s refreshing to still see so many kids at the local baseball field, hockey rink, gymnasium or swimming pool. These parents have done a great thing by keeping their kids active!
Right after sign ups, parents scramble around for the proper equipment… which, of course is necessary to keep them safe. So, we’ve addressed the outside… let’s work to get the inside healthy! It’s a well known fact that athletes require a special diet to fuel their activity. Much like a car, our bodies cannot run without the proper fuel. What your athlete eats is probably the single most import factor on their performance.
So while you may not want to go to the extreme of hiring a nutritionist like professional athletes do, we have some tips to keep players fueled up and ready to go!
Please note: Endurance training (multiple daily workouts) may mean that you will require slightly more servings of certain foods than is generally recommended.
So what exactly SHOULD their diet be?
Carbs have taken quite the hit lately with numberous dieticians warning of their weight gaining potential. But in the world of sports, carbohydrates are essential for maintaining a high energy level. Carbohydrates are the first energy source the body uses to exercise. When carbohydrate intake gets too low, your muscles run out of fuel and our body starts to use fat and protein.
Since most sports feature short bursts of intense effort followe by rest, it is imperative that you keep your body fueled up. Pasta, rice, whole grains (as in breads and cereals), fruit and vegetables and even milk products are all great sources of carbohydrates. During a busy and rigorous training schedule, you should keep carbohydrates to snack on before, during and after exercise.
a. Before exercise, your meal/snack should be a combination of high carbohydrate and low glycemic index (half a lightly buttered bagel, fruit smoothie, yogurt with oatmeal). Carbs give you a nice energy boost and delay fatigue.
b. During your workout, carbohydrates help to maintain blood sugar to fuel your muscles. Be sure to choose snacks that consist mostly of carbohydrates, some protein and little fat. This combination is commonly found in energy bars, dried fruit or a peanut butter sandwich (jelly’s fine to add). You will want to replenish your carbohydrates about every 90 minutes or so to maintain energy levels.
c. Carbohydrates aid in the repair of tissue will make all the difference for ending an active day on a healthy, positive note. Your recovery snack options can include trail mix, sports bars, and yogurt. Just be sure that the amount of carbs in your snack are higher than normal.
Protein is probably the most highly sought out dietary supplement. With protein powders and shakes, the protein intake from and athlete’s regular and supplemented diet is quite elevated from the average person. In general, your normal intake should be sufficient to meet your needs and you want to be careful to ensure that protein isn’t replacing carbohydrates in your diet since carbs are more helpful than protein in boosting your energy.
Even slight dehydration can affect how well you perform. Athletes in particular need to be drinking at least 5 ounces of water or sports drinks every 15-20 minutes. Keep in mind that children are at a greater risk of becoming dehydrated than adults. And most importantly, if you are thirsty, you’re already severly dehydrated! Athletes should be drinking before, during and after a game or workout.
While water is the best thirst quencher and cure for dehydration, kids tend to resist drinking the flavorless liquid. If your child shies away from drinking water, you need to be sure that you have plenty of sports drinks handy. Either way, it’s important that you avoid dehydration. The damage is more than just being thirsty.
4. Food Choices
Competitions and tournaments, primarily those you travel to, often result in quick meals at restaurants… primarily fast food. If the right choices are made, this is generally not a problem.
Attending competitions and tournaments often means that you are eating out in restaurants… primarily fast food. But even fast food restaurants can a good part of an athlete’s nutrition… if the right choices are made. Here are a few tips when eating out:
a. Avoid breading and deep-fried foods. Pizza is ok in moderation, but fatty meat toppings should be avoided.
b. Be careful of what is on top: Dressings and condiments (especially mayonnaise and “special” sauces) are usually what make your meal an unhealthy choice. These sauces add calories and fat without any health benefit whatsoever.
c. Some smart choices: Baked potatoes instead of french fries, vegetable pizza over meat lover’s, broth-based soups (like chicken noodle) instead of cream or cheese based soups.
d. Snacks should also be high in carbohydrates, but low in fat. Pretzels, trail mix, rice cakes, cereal bars, fruit and yogurt are a few good choices.
Whether your child is participating in a championship hockey, baseball or lacrosse game, a big swim meet or pick up game of soccer at the local park, good nutrition can make a difference. Children in general need the right fuel for their growth and development, but an athlete needs to take extra care to keep them healthy and to help them to be the best they can be in their chosen sport. What an athlete eats and drinks can have a huge effect on his or her performance. Encourage your child to be active and to eat like an athlete.