Feeding your young athlete will take a bit of extra consideration and planning. Active kids need optimal nutrition for growth and development and the right fuel for training and competition. Help your athlete fuel up with the right balance of nutrients and fluids.
For an afterschool practice or game, a pre-session snack with carbohydrates will provide fuel for performance. Easy options for the locker room are a banana, orange, peanut butter sandwich, whole grain crackers or pretzels. For vigorous exercise and sensitive stomachs, timing is important and it may be best to have the snack at least an hour before exercising.
Water is best for meeting hydration needs. To start off well hydrated, it’s important to start drinking water before exercising, aim for 8-20 ounces of water within the hour before exercising. During exercise, athletes should be encouraged to drink 3-5 ounces every 15 minutes. Save the sports drinks for vigorous exercise lasting for more than one hour.
After exercising, recovery is the key for refueling for your next session. This is especially important during tournaments when there may be several practices and games in a day or two. A snack or meal combining protein, carbohydrates, and electrolytes will help restore muscle and replace fuels. For a snack, try a fruit and yogurt smoothie or a banana with peanut butter and chocolate milk. Include foods from all food groups for a larger meal- your choice of protein, vegetables, whole grains, your favorite milk beverage, and fruit with dessert.
Eating right provides athletes the fuel they need to enjoy their sport, get more out of practice and competition, and have the brain power needed for their school work.
Cathy McIsaac, a registered dietician, is the Manager of Clinical Nutrition at the UVM Medical Center.