Youth athletes don’t have to follow “strict” diets, but fueling properly before and right after games and practices will help developing athletes maximize performance, recovery and muscle growth.(1,2) Ideally, the meal eaten two and a half to three hours before events and practices should be high in carbohydrates with moderate protein and fat.(3) Meals high in fat, fiber or protein eaten before activity can interfere with energy levels, slow digestion and cause an upset stomach. Listed below are good fast food choices from common restaurants and general guidelines for when you’re on the go.
- Pre and post-training and event snacks are critical for youth athletes. They should be consumed 10 to 40 minutes before activity and immediately afterwards to top off energy stores, reduce muscle damage and optimize muscle growth.(3) Liquid formulas are ideal because they are rapidly digested, absorbed and delivered to muscles. Be sure to carry these items with you along with water or milk and a shaker bottle. If shakes are not an option, the dotFIT Breakfast Bars and other “sport” foods are convenient alternatives with the ideal blend of nutrients for athletes to eat before and after activity. See Pre and Post-training Snacks for more information.
- For long events (greater than an hour) or multiple games, bring sports drinks (e.g. Gatorade) to provide extra energy, fluid and electrolytes.
- If your athlete gets to practice and hasn’t eaten for at least two hours, a sports drink will give them the quick energy they need for exercise and fluids to hydrate. The next time around, take a dotFIT sport food or make a liquid shake high in carbs with some protein and have them consume it before practice or if needed, in the car.
Good Fast Food Choices:
Carbohydrates such as bread, potatoes, rice and pasta and items that are baked, grilled, stir-fried and steamed are good choices. Avoid deep fried foods, ice cream products, beans, spicy foods and rich desserts before events and practices to prevent potential digestion issues and decreased energy levels. Sample pre-event/training meals are shown here (click here to download this menu as a PDF).
Note to Parents and Coaches
Remember, timing is everything – when you’re on the run, be sure your athlete eats a high carbohydrate meal like those listed here two and a half to three hours before training and events. You can give your kids much more flexibility to eat what they want, including fried foods and desserts at other meals. If young athletes become overweight, it’s important that they maintain a stable weight and “grow out of it” instead of dieting to lose weight. Consider consulting a health professional such as a registered dietitian or physician if you have concerns about your young athlete.
- Cribb PJ, Hayes A. Effects of supplement timing and resistance exercise on skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006 Nov;38(11):1918-25.
- Willoughby DS, Stout JR, Wilborn CD. Effects of resistance training and protein plus amino acid supplementation on muscle anabolism, mass, and strength. Amino Acids. 2007;32(4):467-77. Epub 2006 Sep 20.
- Kreider RB, Almada AL, Jose Antonio J, Broeder C, Earnest C, Greenwood M, Incledon T, Kalman DS, Kleiner SM, Leutholtz B, Lowery LM, Mendel R, Stout JR, Willoughby DS, Ziegenfuss TN. ISSN Exercise & Sport Nutrition Review: Research & Recommendations J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2004; 1(1): 1–44.