We hear it all of the time: food is fuel.
We tell kids this all of the time, too. But sometimes, especially for kids, the statement falls on deaf ears. Young athletes often fail to make the connection that what they eat for lunch is what fuels them through their afternoon practice. When they feel sluggish at practice, they rarely identify, “well that makes sense, I ate a hot dog for lunch.” Instead, they usually think, “it was an ‘off’ day,” or don’t attribute the low-energy to anything, “I was ‘just tired’ today.”
In the ZGiRLS sports nutrition session, we make sure that the girls walk away understanding that there is a real (and very influential) link between their nutrition and their performance in their sport. If they don’t eat the right food, then they won’t have the appropriate energy, which almost always translates to a sub-par performance. With all of the uncontrollable variables athletes deal with, why not stack the cards in your favor and take care of one of the factors you DO have control over: the food you put in your body?
Sports nutrition isn’t rocket science. It basically comes down to hydration, eating healthy and balanced meals, selecting the right snacks, and timing your food intake appropriately. The hard part is following through… especially for kids… especially when their friends at school are skipping meals or eating junk.
For parents of young athletes, preparation is key. Plan the week’s meals in advance, build a grocery list, pack snacks in the morning if you are going to be on the go all day. Find healthy foods that your athlete actually LIKES. If she doesn’t like the snack you pack for her, she probably won’t be inclined to actually eat it! There are so many food options out there these days. Talk to your athlete about what she likes, and experiment with new foods so that you can find healthy foods that she enjoys eating.
Help your athlete make the connection between nutrition and her energy level. Support her as she learns what it means to make smart food choices. Encourage eating! Race cars only operate on high-quality fuel… Athletes need to always do the same. Make sure your athlete’s tank is always full and always remind her that FOOD IS FUEL!
For healthy recipe and snack ideas for athletes, visit our PINTEREST page!