Foods to Eat before a CompetitionGood nutrition is always important for growing kids, but the right nutrition is especially important before competition because it can help your child both perform better and recover faster. The right pre-workout meal will maximize performance while also minimizing muscle damage. So, one of the best ways you can help your child prepare for their next game or competition is by ensuring that they have a good pre-workout meal.
What Types of Food to EatTo maximize performance, your child should eat a combination of healthy carbohydrates, proteins and fats. The body’s muscles use the glucose from carbs for fuel, and during short and high-intensity workouts, glycogen stores – the way the body stores and processes glucose – are the body’s main source of energy. When they become depleted, output and intensity both decline. As a result, carbohydrates are important to maximize glycogen stores and to help your child maintain intensity. While glucose fuels the body for short and high-intensity workouts, fat is the body’s source of fuel for longer and moderate-to-low intensity exercise. As a result, healthy fats are important for endurance. Finally, including protein in your child’s pre-workout meal will improve muscle synthesis and help with recovery. Eating protein before exercise can improve muscle growth and recovery, increase both strength and lean body mass and improve muscle performance.
When to EatIdeally, your child should eat a full meal including carbohydrates, proteins and fats about 2-3 hours prior to competition. However, if your child can’t eat at least 2 hours before, focus on providing smaller and easy to digest meals. If it’s less than an hour before a game, skip the fat and instead simply focus on eating carbohydrates and proteins that are easy to digest.
What to EatThe exact meal that your child selects is dependent on the type of event that they’re preparing for. But as you work to build habits around good sports nutrition for your child athlete, you’ll want to focus primarily on healthy carbohydrates, lean proteins and, in some cases, healthy fats. Healthy carbohydrates include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain cereals, whole-grain pasta and brown rice. Foods that provide lean protein include greek yogurt, chicken, turkey and egg whites. Foods to consider for healthy fats are avocados, nuts, trail mix and full eggs. I often hear parents say that they struggle to get their child to eat a good pre-workout morning meal. Some easy things your child can eat in the morning are a banana with peanut butter, a hard-boiled egg with wheat toast or a protein smoothie made with milk, greek yogurt, bananas and mixed berries. If you’re looking for more pre-workout meal ideas, there are a number of sports nutrition articles that provide good tips. Plus, here are a few ideas to help get you started:
- Broccoli, sweet potato and grilled chicken
- Greek yogurt with fruit
- Whole-grain bread with lean meat and a side salad
- Grilled chicken with brown rice and vegetables
- An apple with peanut butter and raisins and a bowl of oatmeal