By Izzy Attai
Sports season finds our children geared up for busy, active days and oftentimes, hectic schedules. As parents get the family in gear for those long days filled with games at tournaments, it is our youth athletes who must perform all day with precious few opportunities to refuel properly before each game. We expect our youngsters to stay focused, energized, and able to play their best with so little time to refuel between games, therefore burning high quality, “high octane” fuel is necessary.
Let’s support the kids as much as possible by providing healthy snacks, proper fluids, and the best lunches for these long tournaments. Games or meet schedules are subject to change, even on game day, so plan and pack lunches accordingly. Help youth athletes create eating routines to stay energized without the ups and downs of blood sugar fluctuations.
Realize that the high-end amateurs and professionals that your children aspire to become do not run on Captain Crunch, Pop Tarts, and the like, so set an example and teach your kids how to eat to win.
Here is an example of a solid routine you can rely on:
- Pack enough snacks to eat every 2-3 hours and/or between games or heats.
- Have a water bottle filled with cool water (or a lower sugar sports drink for activities lasting longer than 60 minutes). Athletes should be drinking fluids frequently throughout the day.
- Prepare lunch so your athlete does not run low on fuel.
- For sports performance, focus on foods that provide the best fuel and are acceptable to picky eaters. Tournament day is not the best time to test out new foods or get your 30 grams of fiber/day. We will discuss the specific types of foods that best fuel sports performance in a separate article.
According to sports nutritionist, Susan Kleiner, PhD, R.D, author of the best sellers Power Eating, 3rd Edition and The Powerfood Nutrition Plan and consultant to amateur, professional and Olympic athletes, when fueling before games youth athletes must obtain the proper combination of carbohydrates and protein with minimal fats. Seek out carbohydrates that are digested quickly, combined with protein to sustain energy. Know that fats slow down digestion, and too much fiber can lead to cramping.
When it comes to tournament time, use this chart to serve as a resource:
Snacks for before games
|90 minutes + before:||
Ideally 250 -400 calories
Half-Time Snacks or Between Games (Less Than 60 Minutes To Rest)
|Less than 60 minutes to
Meal Choices During Tournaments
|Between games for
1-2 hours before next
Best Fast Food Options For Tournaments
I do not recommend that you seek out fast food options, but realize that in a pinch it is often the only option. Please use these options sparingly in favor of better planning options discussed above.
As a Personal Trainer and Wellness Coach with an M.S. in Mental Health Counseling, I prepare young athletes and their parents to improve eating lifestyles, increase energy, lose weight, and improve performance. Take a Free health assessment and discover a personalized path to a healthier, happier life. For more information, contact me at Izzyfit@me.com