December 3rd, 2014

Health N' Sports: Eat to succeed

Staff Report

Health N' Sports: Eat to succeed
Here's a list of what you should eat / photo provided by Norton Sports Health

The bodies of young athletes who are involved in strenuous sports have different nutritional demands than their less active counterparts. An important part of daily training for young athletes’ performance in any sport is through good nutrition each day. Learn more from the experts from Norton Sports Health.

Athletes may need to consume more food to keep up with increased energy demands. Unfortunately, there’s no miracle food to enhance performance. It all boils down to an overall healthy diet and timing of meals.

Of course good nutrition is essential to ensuring young athletes have the energy to perform their best. But it goes beyond that — they need nutrients also to keep up with growth and development, stay hydrated and recover after competition. It’s important to choose foods with protein, carbohydrates and other nutrients, as well as eat these foods at the right time.

Pregame meals

On game days, meals should be eaten three to four hours before the event. A small snack can be eaten about an hour before if the athlete feels hungry. Game-day meals should be higher in carbohydrates, such as pasta, bread, cereal, rice, fruits and low-fat yogurt, but there’s no need to overload on them. The meal should also contain a moderate amount of protein, such as lean meat liked grilled chicken.

Avoid higher-fat foods because they take longer to digest and may cause stomach discomfort. These include hot dogs, hamburgers, French fries and cheese. High-fiber foods may also cause some stomach upset. Food and drinks with high sugar content are not a good choice either — they may provide a quick energy boost but it will be short-lived and leave the athlete feeling drained.

Game day meal ideas:


Cereal with banana, whole-grain toast, and orange juice. Or yogurt with granola and fruit


Roast beef sandwich on whole-grain bun with tomato and lettuce, applesauce, and milk. Or bean burrito with low-fat cheese, lettuce, and tomato.


Spaghetti with tomato sauce, garden salad, low-fat yogurt Or grilled chicken, steamed.

Packable snacks

Encourage your young athlete to bring healthy snacks from home to avoid high-fat and sugary choices from vending machines and snack booths.

Healthy snack ideas:

Oatmeal muffins

Whole-grain crackers

Half a bagel

Fig Newtons

Fresh or dried fruit

Whole-grain dry cereal

Granola or granola bar


Trail mix

After the game

It’s important to refuel the body after competition. The athlete’s body will rebuild muscle and replenish carbohydrates and fluids over the next 24 hours. This is the time to make smart eating choices to avoid feeling drained and sluggish tomorrow.

Experts recommend eating carbs (such as fruit, pretzels, a sports drink) within 30 minutes after intense activity and again two hours later. The postgame meal should be a balance of lean protein, carbohydrates and fat.

If you have to do the drive-thru

Sometimes when traveling to games, eating fast food is unavoidable. But your athlete can make good choices, such as these:



Grilled chicken


Baked potato

Frozen yogurt/fruit



Unsweet tea

And avoid bad choices such as these:


Biscuit sandwich

Fried chicken


French fries

Onion rings

Ice cream

Pie or cookie


Don’t forget hydration

Water is the best source of fluid for the body. Drinks with caffeine can lead to dehydration. Sports drinks are OK in moderation and only during or after intense exercise that lasts 60 minutes or more. Athletes should carry their own water bottle to encourage drinking before, during and after competition.

A word about appearance

In sports where weight or appearance is emphasized, youth may feel pressure to lose or gain weight. Because athletic kids need extra fuel, it’s not a good idea for them to diet. Unhealthy eating habits, like crash dieting, can zap strength, endurance and mental concentration. When a person overeats, the food the body can’t immediately use gets stored as fat.

As a result, kids who overeat may gain weight, not muscle, and their physical fitness will suffer. If a coach, gym teacher or teammate says your child needs to lose or gain weight, or if you’re concerned about your child’s eating habits, speak with your child’s doctor or a nutritionist who can work with you and your child to develop a healthy eating plan for your child’s weight goals.

The Norton Sports Health team of highly trained sports medicine specialists include orthopedists, neurologists, physiatrists and primary care physicians who work together with trainers, physical therapists, nurses, nutritionists and other care providers to design customized programs that return patients to optimal performance and fitness following a sports-related injury. Learn more at


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