If you a parent of one of the millions of adolescent children involved in after school sports or other athletics, then you should really encourage your youngster to take a good look at what they’re eating pre- and post activity. Many teens don’t really consider, or literally don’t have the time, to think about how they are fueling their growing bodies. Take it upon yourself to encourage healthy eating all the time, however, when a child is also an athlete, there are other important nutrition concerns to take into consideration.
Extensive periods of hard exercise can be very stressful on the body of a growing adolescent. And, some teens and preteens are juggling multiple activities at once, even on the same day. For example, two or three days of the week, my cousin picks up her preteen from soccer practice and drives her across town for a two hour dance lesson, many times without a snack in between activities. When her child finally comes home late in the evening, she is so exhausted she barely can manage to eat her dinner. And then, there is homework that needs to be completed before bedtime. Not only does the body need extra calories to match the expenditure of the strenuous activities, the brain needs fuel to think too!
Another challenge that your teen may face is that there are limited healthy options to choose from at school in terms of grabbing a snack before practice or a big game. Often times teens go for the stuff in the vending machine, which is often times stocked with candy bars and soda. Eating these foods can cause indigestion, stomach upset and dehydration while exercising. Not only do these conditions cause discomfort which can lead to poor athletic performance, they can put your youngster in harm’s way.
One idea that will help your teen perform optimally while playing the sport they love is to pack a bag full of healthy snacks to take with them to school, to eat pre and post and in-between activities to keep the energy levels high and fuel the body properly. These snacks should be balanced, and contain at least one fruit, a protein and a starch. One example would be a hydrating citrus fruit, some homemade granola, and a peanut butter and all-natural jam sandwich on whole wheat bread. And don’t forget a big bottle of water to go along with it!
Stay tuned for next week’s blog, Fueling Your Adolescent Athlete, Part Two, for more nutritious snack ideas to help your athlete stay strong and exercise on.