If you are involved in sports because of the fitness benefit, you may already have taken into consideration the best way to provide the proper nutrition and fluids for yourself, or your children if they are in athletic programs at school.
Here are some helpful guidelines if you need help with sports nutrition:
- Sports nutrition experts recommend eating from two to three hours before game time. For morning games, that means getting up early enough to eat two hours before game time. For events in the early to mid-afternoon, breakfast and lunch are important. For late-afternoon games add a light afternoon snack and for evening games, all of these meals plus an early light supper is recommended.
- Oily, greasy fast foods such as burgers, fries, chips, or pizza can take up to three hours to digest so it is best to choose healthy, nutrient-dense whole foods. You might also include 100% fruit juice or some fruit such as applesauce, an apple, some grapes, or a banana. It is also a good idea to provide a modest amount of low-fat protein in pre-game meals.
- For vegetarian families, whole grains, legumes, soy products, and nuts and seeds are great protein sources. Other good choices include fat free or low-fat milk or yogurt, one egg, or a sandwich on whole grain bread made with a quality lean meat.
- An equally important part of pre-game nutrition is drinking enough fluid. Dehydration is uncomfortable, hampers performance and in extreme cases, can be dangerous. Pre-game meals should include one or two cups of water. Then, about 30 minutes before the activity, youths should drink one to two cups of cool water to arrive fully hydrated.
- It is best to avoid sodas, energy drinks and other high-sugar drinks right before the event because the high sugar content can cause stomach cramps and nausea during strenuous game activity.
- Outside of sports time, the preferred beverage to relieve and prevent thirst is water as well.
- If it is a younger child you are trying to help to during their practices and games, some parents find it helpful to mark lines on kids drink bottles as a guide to help them drink enough throughout the game or practice. By half-time, for example, they should have consumed half of their water. Some professionals recommend weighing your child before and after a sports event. Weight loss in such a short time is fluid loss, and your child can re-hydrate by drinking one cup of water for every half-pound lost. Weighing also helps you learn how much fluid is needed for your young athletes to stay properly hydrated.