Nutrition is super-important for all athletes, especially young ones.
During a lull in a youth soccer game recently, I caught myself paying attention to what the benched kids do during their time off the field. Of course there was a healthy amount of horseplay, but what I really paid attention to was how much the kids ate and drank in their time off the field.
As a parent of young athletes, I feel like it’s very important to know what you should be feeding your kid before, during, and after a game, so I did a little research to help all the other curious moms and dads out there. Here are some rules I put together to shed some light on the subject.
Dehydration is obviously a huge issue with kid’s sports. Your child should drink before, during, and after a game. If you wait until they are actually thirsty, chances are they are already dehydrated, so encourage your child to drink sports drinks on a schedule (no carbonated or caffeinated beverages). Sports drinks offer glucose and sodium which aid in the absorption of fluid, carbs to help the muscles, and taste good, which is always a bonus. Just be mindful that drinking excessive fluids during exercise can cause cramps, so consult your coach on this.
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Make sure your kids aren’t sharing water bottles. Each child should have their own bottle and be encouraged to drink 5-9 ounces (10-18 gulps) every 20 minutes during physical activity. Obviously teens should drink more.
Feed your kids a healthy dose of carbs (think rice, beans, pasta) 3-4 hours before the game, a small carb 1 hour before the game (a banana or apple), encourage their hydration during the game, and supply them with another after-game snack like fruit or chocolate milk. Chocolate milk actually helps in the recovery of muscles because it has carbohydrates and protein, not to mention it’s a nice reward for a job well done.
Watch out for heat illness. At the game I recently went to, there was a huge ice bucket that the kids could play with/use to cool down. Its important to watch for signs of heat illness though, as our kids don’t always know their limits and might be prone to over-doing it. Signs of heat illness are faintness or dizziness, nausea, vomiting, heavy sweating with cold, clammy skin, muscle cramps, and headache.