If you have adolescent/teenage athletes, you are familiar with this scenario: waiting in the school pick-up lane, texting your athlete to get to the car ASAP, rushing across town to get to their afternoon practice…
Fueling before practice not only gives energy for training but also re-engages the mind to focus and reduces chances of injury. Fueling is absolutely critical to keep your athlete healthy all season long.
FOOD IS FUEL
Carbohydrates are the main energy source that an athlete uses in high intensity practice. This food is digested pretty quickly if there is little fiber. Consider this as the main component to the after-school/pre-practice snack. Choose a mix of different carb sources, since each type uses a different absorption channel and therefore will clear the stomach and get to muscle quickest (ex: fruit sugar natural to fruit, simple sugar like slightly sweetened cereal, and complex carbs like starchy pretzels and the cereal itself!).
Protein helps to repair muscle and digests a little slower, making this snack a little fuller than just carbs alone. Think of this as the sidekick to carbs, the main event.
Fats digest the slowest, so make the snack even more filling and keep hunger at bay. If your athlete is in a skill based sport that has infrequent bursts of energy (think baseball, softball, golf, diving…), this is a nutrient to incorporate during after-school/pre-practice snack.
- PBJ sandwich, juice box & fresh fruit
- Small turkey sandwich & fruit cup
- Trail mix with pretzels, 1/4c dried fruit and 1/4c nuts
- Dried cereal, 1-2 string cheese sticks
- Flips yogurt
- Fruit, peanut butter & crackers
- Granola bar (5-12g protein) & fresh fruit
Taste is always something to consider, so work with your athlete to find a snack they like to eat that sits well in their stomach.
It’s important to get liquids in before practice to get ahead of fluids they will lose in their sweat. Encourage 8-12oz of fluids, slowly sipped before practice.
Electrolytes like sodium and potassium are lost in sweat (that’s why sweat tastes salty!). An athlete can lose up to 1g of salt per hour of sweating! It is important to have salty foods or electrolyte beverages for your young athlete.
But isn’t salt bad?!
Sodium (a fancy word for salt) is a critical component to fluid balance. Water follows salt, so if you lose salt in your sweat, you will lose the water that you re-hydrate with. Adding salt causes fluid retention – a good thing for athletes trying to retain fluids after a sweaty practice. This can get tough though for someone with a heart condition. Since you retain more fluid, it increases your blood volume and can put more stress on your heart and blood vessels.
Bottom line: if your athlete is sweating, add salt to recover fluid levels. If someone has a heart condition and is not sweating out salt, then adding salt to the diet increases blood volume and pressure on the cardiovascular system.