You are what you eat. That means if you want to achieve optimal performance on (and off) the playing field, you need to put healthful foods into your body to get the most out of it during practice or competition. What you eat and drink before, during and after matters.
Staying energized requires a nutritional balancing act. For young athletes the best balance is a diet that consists of 50-55 percent of calories from carbohydrates, 10-15 percent from proteins and 25-30 percent from fats. Carbohydrates provide the fuel, proteins provide the building blocks, and fat is an energy source. Your nutrition planning should address hydration, muscle recovery and pre-exercise meals.
Drinking plenty of water before, during and after practice or competition can prevent fatigue and dehydration. Consider drinking water on a schedule rather than when you are thirsty. Drinking five to nine ounces every 20 minutes will keep you hydrated. Starting hydration four hours prior to practice or competition is recommended. Fluid replacement is just as important when you are practicing and competing in cold weather sports as it is during warm weather.
Drinking water or chocolate milk is a good way to replace fluid loss and optimize muscle recovery. Try eating or drinking a high-carbohydrate food, such as a fluid replacement drink, milk, fruit juice, or a yogurt or energy bar with fiber and protein, within 15 minutes of exercise. This helps restore glycogen, your quick energy fuel source. One to two hours later, follow this snack with a high carbohydrate, moderate protein meal.
Meal planning can address nutrition needs before and after practice or competition. A pre-exercise meal keeps you from being hungry during periods of high activity by consistently supplying energy to working muscles. Your pre-exercise menu should include carbohydrates, moderate protein, low-fat food and fluids. Suggested food choices may include pasta with veggies and chicken, fruit, milk, cereal, yogurt, toast and juice.
A good post-event or practice recovery meal is heavy on carbohydrates but also includes protein. Menu items such as spaghetti with meat sauce, a bagel with low-fat string cheese, veggie pizza or a chicken sandwich made with whole-grain bread are healthful options.
Stay energized before, during and after competition. Healthful eating can help your body produce the energy you need for optimal performance on and off the playing field.
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