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Sports Nutrition On the Go: Advice for Parents Is Drink Up, Load Up, Refuel, and Replenish


By Hillary Monroe, MS RD LDN  

To help on-the-go sports parents, here are four important sports nutrition points to remember and some tips on how to plan ahead for the hustle and bustle of the fall sports season: 

Basketball player drinking water

1. Drink up: I know this is often mentioned, and for good reason. Our bodies are 60% water. We can’t store it, so it’s truly critical that young athletes some of the electrolytes in addition to the fluid lost. Remember that kids don’t always realize they’re dehydrated, so encourage proper hydration before, during and after competition. get enough. If the competition goes longer than an hour, be sure you have a sports drink on hand. This will help replace fluids lost during sports.

Plan for the road: Keep water bottles or sports drinks with you or in the car just in case. Drinking regularly is the best preventative step.

2. Load up: Before a competition or workout, the best thing for kids are carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the most important fuel because they are what muscles prefer to burn. The body only stores a small amount in the liver, in the form of glycogen, so it’s important to head into a tournament with those glycogen stores fully loaded. Give your kids what they need on the road with a high carbohydrate meal like pasta or a peanut butter sandwich up to four hours before. An hour to 30 minutes before, provide your kids with simple carbohydrates. Avoid foods with high fiber since fiber slows digestion and can be detrimental to the athlete just before a competition.

Plan for the road: Stock up on easily digested carbs, including oranges, fruit juice, mini-bagels with peanut butter, or cereal/energy bars.  Sliced oranges

3. Refuel: Depending on the type of sport your child is playing (intense stop-and-go sports such as soccer), they may need an extra boost during the competition. The same rules apply here: simple carbohydrates such as fruit, or a carbohydrate-filled beverage, such as a sports drink, can refuel muscle stores as glycogen stores get depleted.[1]
Plan for the road: Pack double quantities of sports drinks and fruit for hydrating and pre-competition snacks.
4. Replenish: After a sports competition, rebuilding and refueling is important. A well-balanced diet of carbohydrate, protein and fat is the best way to provide your child’s body with everything it needs to refuel and rebuild. This could be a team meal or a packed snack. It’s  Chocolate milk being poured from bottle to glassokay to consume more fiber and fat, since these snacks are for replenishment rather than quick energy.
Plan for the road: Bring snacks like chocolate milk, whole grain crackers and cheese, yogurt with fruit, or pita chips and hummus.

Time to plan, not experiment

The bottom line is plan, plan, plan! And most importantly, keep this in mind: Game days should not be the time to try new foods. Choose foods you and your kids are comfortable with. Keep them handy so you can be prepared to keep them hydrated, and feed them what they need before, during and after a competition. Good luck! 

Hillary Monroe, MS RD LDN, is a Registered Dietitian and writer for Everyday Health Calorie Counter

1. Phillips S, Turner A, Gray S, Sanderson M, Sproule J. "Ingesting a 6% carbohydrate-electrolyte solution improves endurance capacity, but not sprint performance, during intermittent, high-intensity shuttle running in players of adolescent team games aged 12-14 years" Eur. J. App. Physiol 2010;109(5):811-821.

Posted September 19, 2013