Feeding Your Athlete
As a sports mom nutrition is constantly on my mind when we are
“Did he drink enough water today?”
“Did she fill her water bottle for practice?”
“Is that going to be enough water?”
“What will she need to eat after practice?”
Now think about during games. If you are headed to the local sports complex this weekend for a day of soccer, football, etc., then you might already be thinking about where you’ll eat (if you’re traveling you may have already looked up the local restaurants), but it’s important that we realize what we feed our kids translates to their performance on the field. Have you seen the commercials where kids are depicted as their breakfast foods…..weighed down and sluggish….full of sugar and sugar-crashing on the field? YUP. I’ve seen it too. Between games when the team goes out for meatball subs with sauce and cheese, chips, a cookie and a Coke (goodness), ight as well tie weights to the kid and then ask them to run sprints. That’s how our kids feel after filling up with heavy carbs, sugars, and over-processed foods.
I’ll never forget when my kids were younger, and families signed up to bring snacks for during and after games. Water and orange wedges were encouraged, or strawberries or even grapes (although grapes have been known to have a gassy effect). The mid-game snack was the healthy snack and the after game snack was the treat. After one game, my son came running to me with a HUGE bag of goodies. “Mom, look at what we got for snack!” My eyes bulging I remember seeing Rice Krispie treats, a soda, colorful marshmallows on a stick wrapped in plastic, pixie sticks, a candy bar and fruit snacks (obviously the word fruit made it acceptable). But please don’t get me wrong, I’m at fault as well. “Let’s reward the kids after the game,” I thought. I’m pretty sure I even made homemade whoopie pies at Halloween to be “that mom.” Seriously (shaking head). OH MY GOODNESS!!! We are not dogs, we don’t need treats or rewards in the form of food! Are treats nice, yes, but do we NEED them to help performance? NO!
I do have a point. As my kids have grown and their games have become more physical, the halves longer and the heat unbearable as we wait for the next game, I’ve watched kids on and off the field and I’ve noticed something. Parents who pack snacks like hummus, fruit, veggies, natural peanut butter, water bottles have kids who last longer and have sustained energy on the field. Parents who run to grab a pizza and a liter of coke complain that their kid seems sluggish…like “he has weights tied around his ankles” and they say things like, “I don’t understand…..the break between games must have been too long.” No…..it’s what they were fed, in my opinion (and there’s the key word…opinion). I’m basing this off of years of participation and watching. Kids perform better if during their games you feed them light snacks of fruits, veggies, and healthy fats, turkey jerky or beef jerky. The carbs need to come the night before (just like if they were about to run a marathon….think slow burning). You don’t want to feed kids a bunch of bread, sugar and junk the day of a big game. That’s a disaster in the making and a sugar crash in the near future.
And parents……let’s set a good example from the sidelines! The whole “I’m not playing!” Not cool. You’re supporting your child so cheering while holding your Big Gulp and a Snickers is a distraction and only makes your child focus on what they aren’t having instead of on their best game.
As we hit the field this season think about how you can fuel your athlete for their max performance. Make the hard decisions I know aren’t fun to make (parents….we can do this), and pack food. If the team is going to a restaurant be proactive and talk to your server and your kid to educate them on making smart choices! They’ll have more energy to play their best and be their best on the field and they’ll just FEEL better after the game…..when it’s time to run for ice cream (wait…..) 🙂