3 Tips for Fueling Your Littlest Athletes
Written by: Matt Klein
Everyone is busy, especially parents who have children that participate in sports. It is rare to find parents who have the amount of time to prepare every meal, every day. Parents are running back and forth, from place to place, transporting their young athletes to practices or games. There are easy ways to ensure that your child gets the vital nutrition he/she needs before their game or practice. Let’s take a look at three quick and easy fueling tips:
1. HYDRATE! HYDRATE! HYDRATE!
Although it may be repetitive, being hydrated is one of the most important aspects of any athlete in training. A well-hydrated young athlete will avoid such things as cramping, muscle fatigue and joint pain. It also helps regulate body temperature, lubricate joints and transport nutrients throughout the body, which are vital functions during exercise. Even though sports drinks like Gatorade are marketed as something for athletes to drink at any time, Gatorade should be avoided until AFTER physical activity in order to restore electrolytes in an athlete’s system. Sugar levels and other ingredients found in Gatorade make it less ideal for pre-workout/activity. Your athlete should be drinking at least 32 oz. of water on the day of a practice or game. Try to instill this habit by encouraging them to always take a drink any time they walk by a water fountain at school or equip them with a bottle to fill up.
2. Eat Grains, Carbohydrates
Besides water, which is the most essential nutrient for your body, carbohydrates are the most ready energy source for your body along with Protein and Fats. Contrary to some popular diets of our time, removing carbohydrates from an athlete’s diet can be detrimental and cause an imbalance in their system. Carbohydrates are broken down to create glucose which provides energy for the body to perform physical activity. For a busy parent who might not have all the time in the world to prepare a three course meal (who ever does) before a practice or game, you want to try to make something high in carbohydrates like pasta, rice, bread, or granola. Even something as simple as toast will help fuel your young athlete. Don’t complicate things and keep it simple with foods high in carbs!
3. Fruits and Potassium
In addition to being properly hydrated and eating foods rich in carbohydrates, another quick and easy method for fueling your athlete is to always have a fruit handy for them to snack on. Fruits are filled with natural sugars which are vital and will give your child a safe, natural burst of energy. On top of the natural energy provided by fruits, fruits are also filled with an important nutrient called potassium. Potassium, like water, helps to prevent cramping, weakness and lessened reflexes. Potassium levels are often determined by the amount of physical activity an athlete endures in that it is lost in an athlete’s sweat. With that said the more activity an athlete performs, the less potassium he/she will have in their body. So be aware of this relationship as some children may require more potassium intake than others. Fruits like bananas and oranges are high in potassium and should be eaten between 30-60 minutes before exercise.
~ Coach Matt
Stay active this summer with We Got Game! Call 773-685-1682 or go online to register. We offer Northside Sports Camp 4-7 year olds @ Audubon Elementary & Summer Sports 5-7 year olds & 8-12 year olds @ Blaine Elementary.