It’s summertime! That means we’re all spending more time outdoors and between swim lessons in the morning and a baseball game in the afternoon a busy youth athlete is going to need to eat the right kind of food so they don’t fall asleep in the outfield! Here are a few summer sports nutrition tips and ideas to keep your youth athlete feeling full and energized.
Whole-grain crackers or bagels.
Whole-grains foods contain all three parts of the grain (bran, the germ and endosperm). Whole-grain snacks like crackers and bagels are better for summer athletes because they break down more slowly and provide lasting energy. Simple carbohydrates like those in white breads and cookies are more quickly converted to sugar (which means faster energy) but cause a sugar crash later. The last thing we want is for our summer athletes to run out of gas halfway through the game!
Low-fat chocolate milk.
Believe it or not, low-fat chocolate milk has everything a summer athlete needs after a hard practice or game. It has the right carb to protein ratio for optimal recovery and is packed full of good nutrients like calcium. Sports drinks are good because they contain electrolytes like sodium and potassium, which we lose when we sweat, but a big sport drink also comes with big amounts of sugar. Low-fat milk might have a little added sugar in it, but it’s far less than the amount of sugar that is usually added to sports drinks and definitely better for youth athletes than soda.
Fatty food and proteins (like fast food burgers) can take a long time to digest so summer athletes can get that heavy feeling in their stomachs, which is definitely not fun on a hot day! Low-fat protein options like plain greek yogurt, turkey, and eggs are a great source of good fats, vitamins and protein. If you are traveling to an away tournament it’s always good to pack a few low-fat options in a cooler; you never know what kind of food will be around and you don’t want to rely on nachos and candy to keep your youth athlete going!
There is a big difference between “fruit” snacks and an actual apple or orange. Fresh blueberries, for instance, are full of good carbohydrates, fiber, and Vitamin C. Some blueberry flavored fruit snacks, on the other hand, actually have very few blueberries in them and use blueberry juice concentrate to get the flavor and color. You can’t go wrong with a few bananas, pears, or pineapple slices during half-time. Watermelon is also a fantastic summer snack for athletes because it has so much water, which will help keep youth athletes hydrated!
The most important thing to remember is to encourage your youth athlete to stay hydrated! Make sure they drink plenty of water before their practice or game, keep drinking throughout and rehydrate after! Keep extra water bottles in their sports bag or in the trunk of your car so your team is never without water. And remember to take care of your own hydration needs. Sometimes we as coaches and parents worry so much about the kids we forget to eat and drink the right things for ourselves!