Summer can bring forth images of youth ball games, sitting in the bleachers, slathering on sunscreen, and of course, concession stand food. Sure, hot dogs and nachos are great snack foods from time to time, but have you ever wondered if fueling your athlete, like an athlete, they might play and feel better?
You do not have to clean out your refrigerator or pantry to stock up on the latest “healthy” food trend. It often comes down to the “power of one”. By adding one small healthy snack, an extra glass of water, or an additional 10 minutes of sleep to your athlete’s day, they might start playing and feeling better.
Partnering with Andrea Beck, a registered dietitian, and including the website Shape Your Future (www.shapeyourfutureok.com), we began delving into pre-game, during-game, and post-game fueling for youth athletes, and we’d like to share with area families.
As you’re getting your youth athlete prepared for the game, checking snacks, sleep and water are a great way to start. All kids have certain foods they love and will eat, so this is a general guideline, you may have to experiment for your athlete’s best results.
Your child needs at least 8 hours of sleep to have the best results on and off the field or court. Having a protein and carb-rich snack and a glass of water are also strong choices before the big game. Small servings of snacks can look like a scrambled egg in a whole wheat tortilla; cottage cheese with fruit; peanut butter with half an apple; or a snack bar like Kind, Kashi, or Larabar. But why protein and carbohydrates? They help the body have sustained energy for the game, take longer to digest, and help in the muscle’s recovery process.
During the game
It’s important to keep your athlete hydrated during the game. Dehydration happens when your child isn’t drinking enough water during and after the game. Soda and other sugary drinks like Gatorade doesn't hydrate the body. Water is the best choice, and it doesn’t have to be boring. There are many infused water recipes from the Shape Your Future website, that include blueberry orange, cucumber lime, raspberry orange and so much more.
Having a quick pick-me-up snack during the game can be beneficial too. Try some fruit that contains natural sugars for a boost of energy. Many kids will choose clementines also known as “cuties”, chilled grapes, washed berries, and apple wedges to grab and get back on the field or court. If it’s been more than an hour since the athlete’s pre-game food, offering a snack bar with whole grains, like Kind, Kashi, or Larabar. These grains and proteins sustain play for a bit longer.
Following the game, kids need to replenish their fluids and replace the loss of carbs and protein. If they have been really sweating because it’s a typical Oklahoma summer day, you might want to include an electrolyte in their water. A few that have less sugar and artificial sweeteners are Vitamin Water ZERO, Gatorade Ice Punch, Gatorade Frost and Nuun tablets added to water.
Offering another snack after the game is helpful, too. A mixture of fats, proteins and carbs will help muscle repair and create team cameraderie. If you are providing the team snack, here are a few good ideas.
- Frozen fruit kabobs with a nut butter, depending on allergies
- Carrot sticks, pea pods, and other veggies with hummus or salsa
- String cheese with cuties or orange slices
- Popcorn, pretzels or tortilla chips with guacamole
Summer is now in full swing and we can give our youth athletes the best opportunity to fuel like an athlete to play like an athlete, through the “power of one”. Parents and grandparents can add just one healthier option for themselves and their athlete, and feel the benefits. Add one more glass of water, add 10 more minutes of sleep, add a few more bites of broccoli, add one walk to the mailbox and back. These positive additions are small steps to creating a healthier family, team, and community.
Holly Gordon is the Healthy Living Program Coordinator for Gateway to Prevention and Recovery. She uses her love of community and connection to come alongside folks to support their wellness efforts in a sustainable way.