Student athletes want delicious food, of course. Make sure they’re fueling up with the right combination of nutrients before the game.
Perfect pre-game meals give young athletes the energy to get through demanding physical performances without creating spikes and crashes in blood sugar. They also provide enough substance to prevent athletes from feeling hungry midway through their games — but without being so heavy that they feel sluggish or are prone to painful side stitches.
The sports medicine experts at Vanderbilt Orthopedics suggest these meals, best eaten a couple of hours before a game. Athletes might want a light snack right before the game, too. These meals all provide a combination of carbohydrates (for immediate energy) and protein (to keep blood sugar stable and help muscles recover later). Best fare to prepare for action:
- Pasta with meat sauce; salad with low-fat dressing; fruit and granola; and low-fat milk.
- Baked chicken; steamed vegetables; rice; a fig bar; and a sports drink.
- Grilled steak; baked potato with low-fat sour cream and low-fat cheese; steamed vegetables and water.
- Lean deli meat sandwich on whole wheat bread, baked chips, a fruit-and-yogurt smoothie.
- Peanut butter and jam sandwich; low-fat Greek yogurt; a banana; and 100 percent juice.
- English muffin pizza topped with tomato sauce, low-fat cheese, vegetables and lean meat toppings (chicken, ham or turkey pepperoni); pasta salad; fruit cup; and low-fat chocolate milk. Or try this veggie-heavy homemade pizza, and add some lean meat for extra protein.
Of course, what children and teens eat day in and day out will affect their health and athletic performance, so it’s not just about their pre-game meals. The best overall nutrition for young athletes is a mix of lean protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates.