Quarrier Corner: Eating for sports
October 01. 2013 1:39PM
As a school nurse, I am sometimes asked by parents how their child should properly eat and hydrate for the sports they participate in. All kids, athletes or not, should eat a variety of healthy foods.
Everyone needs a diverse, healthy diet:
Protein - meats, seafood, eggs, beans, nuts, milk, yogurt and cheese
Carbohydrates - fruits, vegetables and whole grains
Vitamins - fruits and vegetables
Minerals - calcium, dairy foods, dark green, leafy veges, meat, dried beans and fortified cereals
Fat - meats, cheeses, nuts, oils and butter. Fats are easy to get, so try to eat the healthy fats (unsaturated fats) that are found in olive oil, vegetable oil and canola oil. Lean meats, low fat cheeses and 1 percent or skim milk are healthy choices.
A balanced diet including these five components is key to a body’s ability to grow, develop, and perform to its fullest potential.
The biggest difference in food consumption between an athlete and a non-athlete is that an athlete might need to consume more food. An athlete burns more calories by practicing and playing. Not only do athletes often require more food, but they require more liquids as well. Preventing dehydration that can occur from sweating during physical exercise, takes drinking water before, during and after exercise. An athlete should not wait until he or she feels thirsty to drink water. Sports drinks are recommended for times of vigorous exercise for more than one hour or in very hot weather. Kidshealth.org says, “When it’s time to practice or play, you’ll get energy from the foods you’ve been eating all week, but it’s still a good idea to eat well on that day. If you’re going to eat a meal, have it two to four hours before practice or game time… The best pregame meal includes carbohydrates and protein for energy, but is low in fat and fiber, which can slow digestion.”
It’s always a good idea to keep your water bottle filled and to have a healthy snack (a half sandwich, fresh fruit, or some nuts) with you just in case you get hungry and your energy starts to drop. Candy and soda will give you a quick boost, but they won’t keep you energized for long.
Everyone likes a non-nutritious treat once and awhile, and that’s OK; self-deprivation doesn’t work well for long, so enjoy your favorite cookie or handful of chips. Then, treat your body right with healthy foods and water, at least 30 minutes of exercise each day, and eight hours of sleep each night. The good health recipe is the same for everyone, athletes and non-athletes. Be well.