For those involved in youth sport, every season usually includes at least one tournament. Whether it’s soccer, baseball, or any other sport, the weekend is spent watching games, resting in between them, and waiting to hear when your child will compete next. Having dedicated so many time and energy to practice, it’s important for your athlete not to burn out during these long weekends due to improper nutrition.
Having a tried-and-true nutrition plan ensures that the energy needed to achieve peak performance is there. Rather than spend money on unhealthy foods at the concession stand that could hinder performance, prepare a ‘tournament cooler’ using our quick, easy-to-follow suggestions:
4 Hours Prior To Game-Time
This meal should include good sources of carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein. A great example is cereal or oatmeal with fruit or nuts, milk, and a hard-boiled egg.
Two Hours Prior To Game-Time
A snack loaded with carbohydrates but low in fiber and fat can not only help you stay nourished and full during competition, it can also give you the energy needed to perform your best. As our TrueSport Nutrition Guide explains, carbohydrate intake before exercise can help to restore sub-optimal glycogen stores, which is critical for prolonged periods of exercise. Fatty foods should be limited as they delay the emptying time of the stomach and take longer to digest.
During The Tournament
A cooler with food and snacks that are easily digestible and appetizing for the all-day athlete will keep them energized and ready to compete. Low-fat granola bars, fresh fruit (like pineapple, watermelon, or oranges), low-fat yogurt, nut butter sandwiches, a handful of trail mix, string cheese, and bagels are all great go-to options for your cooler. Fruits consist mostly of carbohydrates and water, and are digested fast which limits the possibility of stomach cramping or GI distress.
Also, make sure there’s plenty of water and a sports drink to keep your athlete hydrated throughout the day. Athletes who consume a sports drink containing between 6 and 8 percent carbohydrates can maintain blood glucose levels at a time when muscle glycogen stores are diminished. This allows carbohydrate utilization and energy production to continue at high rates. A dehydrated athlete has a decrease volume of blood circulating through the body, meaning their muscles won’t receive enough oxygen and exhaustion sets in, ultimately hampering an athlete’s performance.
Replenish glycogen stores and protein with a recovery snack such as chocolate milk. Aside from being tasty, chocolate milk is rich in carbohydrates and protein, both of which play a key role in maximizing recovery. Consuming a carbohydrate snack within 30 minutes after training will allow the body to start replenishing glycogen stores in the body. Including a small amount of protein in your post-exercise snack helps muscle recovery and promotes muscle growth.
After The Tournament
After spending the entire day giving it their all, athletes shouldn’t neglect their recovery nutrition. Make sure your athlete’s body repairs and restores itself for the next activity (especially if it’s a two-day event) with recovery snacks that include carbohydrates and proteins, such as a fruit and yogurt smoothie, Greek yogurt with fruit, an apple or banana with nut butter, and trail mix. A well-balanced meal, including complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats should follow within four hours.
This article was prepared from the TrueSport Nutrition Guide as well as Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition (SCAN).