Why do youth athletes need snacks?
Youth athletes burn a lot of calories and have increased nutrition needs. No matter what sport your athlete plays, post game snacks will be beneficial. Snacks help athletes meet their elevated nutrition needs to fuel their sport, and their needs for growth and development. In addition, choosing the best after game snack, will help give youth athletes a competitive advantage. However, all snacks are not created equal.
Has your youth athlete ever gotten into the car or onto the team bus after the game cranky because they need a snack and don’t know what to eat?
This article will give you the tips you need to choose healthy, nutritious snacks for youth athletes after games. Keep reading for a list of my top 10 after game snack ideas for youth sports. As always, when I refer to youth athletes or youth sports teams I am referring to players ages 6 through 18.
What to look for when choosing a snack
When choosing a snack for after a game there are many things to consider. As a rule of thumb I recommend combining carbohydrates with proteins. Many parents, coaches and youth athletes assume that protein is the most important macronutrient to have after a game. Protein is important, but the most important macronutrient to consume is actually carbohydrates. The grams of carbohydrate and protein needed in the post game snack will vary depending on the players age, level of competition and overall nutrition needs. In addition to carbohydrates and protein, don’t forget to include water for hydration.
Goals of the after game snack: the 5R strategy
- Replenish glycogen stores. Glycogen is the storage form of glucose and glucose comes from the carbohydrates you eat. Glucose is the body’s primary form of energy. After participation in a sporting event, glycogen is depleted and for this reason it needs to be replenished.
- Repair muscle tissue. Muscle tissue is broken down through exercise and the protein that you eat helps to repair it.
- Replace electrolytes lost through sweat. The electrolytes sodium and chloride are lost through sweat. Sodium and chloride are also the electrolytes that make up salt (NaCl).
- Rehydrate to replace lost fluids and electrolytes. For some athletes, water and a snack might be enough. However, other athletes benefit from sports drinks or chocolate milk as part of their refueling snack plan.
- Refuel to stay satisfied until the next meal and to help meet nutrition needs. Not only will the post game snack help athletes stay satisfied until their next meal, but this snack should provide them with the nutrients that they need for growth and development.
Refueling: Snack Timing in Youth Sports
The post game snack is the start of refueling the body after activity. Although youth athletes are not always hungry right after a game, a good goal is for youth athletes to have a post game snack within 30 minutes to 60 minutes of playing. The size of the snack will depend on individual nutrition needs and how close this is to the next meal.
For example, if the game ends at 4PM and dinner is not until 7PM, a substantial snack such as a yogurt parfait will be beneficial. If the game ends at 4PM and dinner will be at 5PM, a piece of fruit on its own or in addition to a cheese stick should be enough.
My Top 10 after game snack ideas youth sports
- ½ of a peanut butter sandwich or 1/2 of a sunflower seed butter sandwich
- Fig bars
- Date bars or energy balls
- Pretzels and hummus
- Chocolate milk (shelf stable boxes)
- Trail mix (make your own using dried fruits, nuts, and cereal)
- Yogurt parfaits (yogurt with fruit and cereal or granola)
- ½ of a turkey and avocado sandwich
- Peanut butter or sunflower seed butter packets with fruit and/or graham crackers
- Fruit and cheese sticks
Snacks help youth athletes fuel their bodies to help them meet their elevated nutrition needs not only for their sport, but also for their growth and development. What’s your favorite game day snack? Comment below and let me know.
Don’t forget to share this post with friends, parents of youth athletes, and coaches! Lets help youth athletes learn to fuel their bodies!
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