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Young athletes with oranges in their mouths

Winning Snacks for Student Athletes

By: Lori Morris-Platte, LATC

One of the biggest issues student athletes face is how to eat properly so they have enough energy to get through their classes and after-school practices. Many high school students are sitting in a classroom by 7:30 or 8:30 a.m. and stay at school until the bell rings seven hours later. When you add an additional two to four hours for athletics, band practice, or club meetings, you have an incredibly long day. If students are not prepared with an optimal meal plan, they will ultimately run out of gas.

Good nutritional choices are imperative to performance and overall health. Brain, cardiovascular, and musculoskeletal functions all worsen without proper nutrition and hydration. A daily food plan requires thought, planning, and proper execution. Student athletes should eat a solid breakfast and lunch, but they also must be prepared to bridge the nutritional gap between school hours and practice.

Unfortunately, some students have to eat lunch as early as 11 a.m., leaving them depleted by the time practice starts after school. Other students leave school before practice and may use that time to grab fast food or an energy drink. Neither circumstance is ideal for optimal physical performance.

So, what are some better choices for students participating in physical activities after school? First, consider the breakdown of nutritional components. The snack or small meal must be relatively high in quality carbohydrates and should include some fat and protein.

Some healthy snack options include:

  • Whole-grain crackers with peanut butter or another nut butter.
  • Yogurt with granola and dried fruit.
  • Peanut butter or almond butter and jelly or honey on a sandwich using whole-grain bread.
  • Turkey slices with fresh veggies and cheese rolled up inside.
  • Carrots and guacamole.
  • Grapes, a cheese stick, and a handful of nuts or crackers.
  • Pita chips and hummus.
  • A granola bar and a piece of fruit.

Most of these examples are easily digested within 30 to 60 minutes before physical activity. If time is a bigger issue, you can always stick with a piece of fruit or 100-percent fruit juice before activity.

The other important factor to remember is hydration. Students need to sip on water throughout the school day. They should also drink at least 12 to 16 ounces of water within 30 to 60 minutes of activity. And, water should be readily available throughout practice.

After practice ends, players typically need to drink at least 24 to 36 ounces of water within 30 to 60 minutes. Water is best before and during practice. Water, sports drinks, and juice are better saved for after practice. Sodas and most energy drinks contain caffeine and other chemicals, which can cause dehydration, and they should be avoided during athletic participation. Proper planning and preparation for the entire day will help student athletes feel and perform better.

For more information regarding Sports Nutrition, please visit CHKD Sports Nutrition or call (757) 668-7850.

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About CHKD Sports Medicine

About CHKD Sports Medicine  CHKD's sports medicine program offers the most comprehensive care for your young athlete. From diagnosis and treatment to customized rehabilitation plans, we specialize in physical therapy and injury prevention programs for active children and teens. Our team is composed of pediatric orthopedic surgeons, sports medicine specialists, physician assistants, certified athletic trainers and pediatric sports medicine physical therapists.