Nutrition for your Athlete

Question: I am a mom of three teenage athletes, football, powerlifting, volleyball, cross country and soccer to be exact. Which ever the sport, I would be interested to know what kinds of foods/meals should I prepare for them before games and after games. Does feeding them carbs the night before a game make a difference?

For all sports pre, during and post-exercise nutrition is important. For pre-exercise nutrition, the goal is to eat a meal about 2-4 hours before the workout/game that is high in complex carbohydrate (bagel, pasta, brown rice, sweet potato, oatmeal, etc), moderate in lean protein, and lower in fat and fiber. Fat and fiber both slow down digestion significantly so we don't want a lot of them right before a workout because they could cause stomach stress. An example of pre-game meal might be multi-grain pasta with marinara sauce and grilled chicken, green beans and rolls. Also make sure they get in 16-20 oz of fluid at the meal.

If the meal is closer to the workout I typically recommend a easier digesting meal like a turkey & cheese sandwich, whole grain chips and a banana or yogurt or something like that. Of course serving sizes are specific to the size of the athlete. If they eat 3-4 hours before the workout, you might want to provide a small snack right before the workout like a granola bar, energy bar, banana, dry whole grain cereal, etc and another 8 oz fluid.

During workouts make sure they stay hydrated, drinking 5-10 oz every 20 minutes...this can be water or sports drink. Workouts last significantly longer than an hour need carbohydrate like sports drinks, fruit, crackers, granola bars, etc.

For post-workout nutrition the goal is get nutrition in as fast as possible. Ideally we recommend a carbohydrate-protein meal/snack as soon as possible, but for sure within 45 minutes after the workout. Examples include low-fat chocolate milk, cereal with low-fat milk, yogurt with granola, energy bars like Clif Bar or Power Bar, etc. Then follow that snack with a meal in the next 1-2 hours of complex carbohydrate, lean protein and some healthy fat...similar to the pre-workout meal.
Also make sure to replenish fluids. All athletes need at least 24 oz fluid post workout, but really the recommendation is 24 oz for every pound of weight lost during a workout so your heavier sweaters need more fluid...that can be water, sports drinks, milk, smoothies, etc.

Yes, the night before the competition feed a meal similar to a pre-exercise/game meal. It should be high in complex carbohydrate, moderate in lean protein like a lean meat and lower in saturated fat. Also make sure to provide adequate fluid the day before. The best way to monitor hydration status is to look at the color of the urine. If it is clear or looks like pale lemonade then the athlete is hydrated; if it looks more like apple juice, have him/her drink more fluids to dilute the color.

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