The food your youth sports athletes eat before their games can have a huge impact on their energy, stamina and overall performance.
Just like a diesel car can’t run properly on regular gas, giving your youth athlete the wrong kinds of pre-game meals and snacks means they won’t be able to play at their best. When it comes to your youth athlete’s pre-game menu, what they should eat is often affected by when their game is.
Here are three examples:
Sometimes your team draws the short straw in a tournament and has the first game of the day at 8 a.m.
Obviously you can’t send your players out there on an empty stomach, but they don’t have much time to eat and digest before they have to get moving. A glass of orange juice or milk and piece of toast or fresh fruit should be enough to get them through the first game. If they are really hungry a scrambled egg should do the trick.
Of course you want to give your athlete enough food to keep them full and focused, but sports parents should keep in mind that this early morning pre-game meal isn’t giving their child the bulk of their energy — last night’s dinner is.
If you know you have an early morning game, make sure your youth athlete has a hearty dinner the night before with complex carbohydrates (for long term energy) and lean proteins. It’s important to eat consistently throughout the whole week so you athlete has all the nutrition they need to perform.
All-day tournaments may mean teams only have a ½ hour to 45 minutes between each game. The kids are going to need to eat something, but you don’t want to weight them down with greasy fast food.
Just because it’s fast, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Stick to GORP (good old raisins and peanuts) and other simple snacks that will help stabilize their blood sugar but won’t make them feel stuffed.
And make sure you avoid energy drinks. Although they are quick and easy to drink and may give your athletes a little added boost, when they’ve got another three games ahead of them, you want to make sure they don’t crash in the middle of the day.
Night games, especially on weekdays, can get a little tricky when it comes to making sure your athlete is getting the right food. Assuming they have school all day and then a game at 5 or 6 p.m., you don’t have time to get them home for a well-balanced meal.
On game days like this, their school lunch becomes very important. Fill their lunch box with fruit (fresh or dried, just not “fruit” snacks), make a sandwich on hearty bread with a couple slices of turkey or chicken, add a low-fat yogurt snack and maybe some carrots sticks to round it out.
You might also want to tuck in a few extra snacks for them to have later in the day so they aren’t hungry by the end of the day.