Let’s face it, our young athletes are dedicated and committed and giving their 100%, but when it comes down to it, especially for the little ones, they care, A LOT, about the post game snack! And we’ve all seen it…kids get off the field, smiling and energized and we feel so proud they’re participating in physical activity and doing something good for their bodies…and then…what do we feed them? Bags of chips, cookies, cupcakes, pizza, and juice boxes. What kind of message are we sending these kids?
There are some VERY good reasons to pay close attention to what our young athletes eat immediately after practices and games. Today we will focus on the “Post-Game Snack,” or what I like to call Recovery Fuel.
Why is the Post-Game Snack Important?
Young athletes’ muscles act like sponges right after exercise. This includes practices and games. Glycogen is our stored energy source, the fuel that keeps athletes going and prevents them from “hitting the wall.” This becomes SO important as kids get older and the level of play is more competitive. Athletes must replenish glycogen frequently, since body stores will only be able to fuel 1 ½-2 hours of intense play.
Immediately after exercise, our bodies can produce and store glycogen 1 ½ times faster than any other time of the day. So why not take advantage of it?! This period of 15-30 minutes after exercise is known as the “golden window.” Our young athletes should NOT feed their bodies junk food at this time! Leave the cookies for another time! The post-exercise snack should be followed by a balanced meal within 2 hours of play.
Experts agree the best combination of nutrients for glycogen production has a ratio of somewhere between 3:1 to 5:1 carbohydrates to protein. (Most recommend 4:1 carbs to protein. The following snack ideas all meet this criteria!
Post Game Snack Ideas: Keep it simple!
- Crackers, cheese and grapes
- Bread, Peanut butter, banana
- Bean and cheese burrito
- Veggies and hummus
- Turkey rollup with veggies
- Fruit salad or kabobs and yogurt or string cheese
- Home made trail mix with nuts and dried fruit
- Yogurt, fruit and granola
- Fruit smoothie (I freeze them into “popsicles”)
- Fruit muffin and yogurt
Don’t forget to make it fun! Our younger athletes are much more likely to eat healthier foods if they are presented in fun, kid-friendly little “packages”! Be creative and have fun!
I do hear from some of the older players that. they don’t feel like eating food immediately after a long practice -an adequate option might be low-fat, organic chocolate milk! Chocolate milk has been used by professional trainers for years…it offers a good ratio of carbs:protein and it’s definitely an easy sell! At our house, the chocolate milks are under lock and key! I treat them almost like “medicine.” (My kids know they are not for drinking while watching TV or playing Fortnite). Be picky when choosing a chocolate milk- look for those without artificial flavors, preservatives or other bad stuff!
What about fluids?
For the same reason I mentioned earlier, the body absorbs fluids best immediately after exercise. Make sure your young athlete has the right kind of drink and plenty of it! Hydration blog coming soon!