With the start of the school year comes the start of soccer, lacrosse, tennis, cross-country, and other fall sports. Just like training and coaching, what athletes choose to eat and drink are important pieces of their success in athletic endeavors. Knowledge about the importance of food and nutrition in sport also encourages overall healthy eating habits. Here are a few healthy food suggestions to get the season off on the right foot.
Before practice or competition
Two to four hours before practice or competition is good timing for a snack or meal. Some examples include; a sandwich with lean meat and a piece of fruit, pasta with tomato sauce, a bowl of cereal with milk, an English muffin with honey and a container of yogurt. The American College of Sports Medicine suggests 16 – 20 ounces of fluid (water) within two-hours before exercise.
During practice or competition
Young athletes should drink an extra 8 to 12 ounces of fluid for every half hour of strenuous activity. If events or practice last for multiple hours, light carbohydrate snacks, such as fruit or energy bar, with water and a sports drink, will keep energy high. Fiber d’Lish bars taste like a cookie and provide 12 grams of fiber.
After practice or competition
Energy spent during practice or competition needs to be replaced. It’s best to refuel within 60 minutes after exercise and include both complex carbohydrates and a little bit of protein. Don’t forget water. Examples include:
- Sandwich with 3 ounces lean meat, pretzels, a piece of fruit and a glass of milk
- Pasta with marinara sauce, a slice of whole grain bread and a glass of milk
- Three ounces lean meat with cooked veggies, a serving of potatoes or rice and a glass of milk
What about sports drinks?
Sports drinks are beneficial for kids who participate in prolonged and rigorous physical activity that lasts more than 60 minutes, such as distance running or soccer. Other than that, plain water is the preferred choice. Sports drinks are not necessary for casual exercisers. Caffeinated energy drinks and sugary soft drinks are discouraged.
Keep it simple
For sport performance and good health, keeping it simple is the best approach - a balanced diet of healthy food like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein, plenty of fluids and adequate rest. Have a great season!