Fueling Your Young Runner

Fueling Your Young Runner

Is your child a runner?  Running isn’t just for track or long distance it goes along with a magnitude of sports including soccer, football, lacrosse, and of course cross country and track.  Here are some statistics for the amount your child may be running in some of the more common sports that your child may be playing.  For baseball the average distance your child may end up running during a game is about .046 miles, football is 1.25 miles, basketball is 2.9 miles, tennis is 3 miles, field hockey is 5.6 miles and soccer is 7 miles.

  Now of course these figure are averaged out and probably more associated with athletes in high school and beyond but you need to put it into perspective.  The miles are going add up.  If you child is going to practice 2-3 times and week and playing 1-2 games/week, that’s a lot of running!

So the question is: Are you helping your child fuel properly from day to day? The following are a few suggestions on how to fuel your child for better recovery and muscle building.

The basics of eating a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner from day to day is probably the most valuable tool you have to making sure your child is getting the base line for fuel. Using MyPlate will help you provide the five food groups of grains, proteins, fruits, vegetables and dairy.  But what about feeding your child before or after exercise.  Think about your child as an engine or even a fire.  You have to fuel the fire to keep it going.

  Kids instinctively want to grab something quick and easy before practice or a game but their choice can lead to poor performance.

Some suggestions for Pre workout nutrition would be to eat something with at least 30 minutes but preferably 1 hour before working out.  It is hard to work out knowing that you might get stomach cramps or a side stitch.

  Try to keep it simple with a carbohydrate and a little protein. Carbohydrates are your main source of fuel are broken down into glucose which is how we fuel our muscles.  Without glucose, you will compromise your abilities and will feel fatigued. 

Examples of pre-workout foods with 3-4 hours before practice or competition:

  1. Whole wheat toast with peanut butter, almond butter or sun butter with a little honey
  2. Oatmeal with brown sugar and almonds + skim milk + banana
  3. Low fat cottage cheese + apple butter + crackers + grapes
  4. Turkey and Swiss sandwich + fruit+ sports electrolyte drink mix
  5. Fruit and yogurt smoothie+ granola

Examples of pre workout foods (looking to eat between 100-300 calories) with only 30-60 minutes before practice or competition include:

  1. Piece of fresh fruit
  2. Banana with peanut butter (or other nut or seed butter)
  3. Half a bagel with jam
  4. Whole grain pretzels

For Recovery foods we are still looking for your child to get about 300 calories and most importantly that they eat these foods within 30 post activity for best results with muscle growth and recovery.

Examples of post activity snacks or meals:

  1. Smoothie with yogurt and frozen berries
  2. Graham crackers with a nut or seed butter+ low fat chocolate milk + banana
  3. Applesauce with string cheese
  4. Trail mix
  5. Bagel with low fat cream cheese and jelly
  6. Whole wheat pita sandwich with veggies +low fat milk+pretzels
  7. Rice bowl with beans, cheese, salsa, avocado + whole grain tortilla chips or a whole wheat tortilla

There are so many snack ideas for kids to enjoy before and after any activity.  Just remember that before an activity or event to keep it simple and never try anything that you haven’t tried before.  Sometimes with pre-competition jitters, liquid snacks like a smoothie may be a better choice.  For recovery you want to focus on restoring fluid, electrolytes and replace the lost muscle fuel that you used up during the activity.  The best rule of thumb is to begin your nutrition recovery within 15-60 minutes after practice or competition.

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