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Fuel for fall sports

October 1, 2016
Basia Drilling , MOV Parent

The transition into the fall season brings exciting changes: cooler weather, a new school year and competitive sports. Football, soccer and cheerleading are a few of the many activities that require countless hours of practice and games. It's no surprise that the time and dedication put into practice affects the outcome of the sporting event. But what is often overlooked is the benefit that nutrition has on total performance. The content and timing of meals and snacks help ensure children receive adequate energy to perform.


Just like a car cannot complete a long road trip on an empty tank, an active child cannot compete at his or her best on an empty stomach. Carbohydrates are the body's preferred source of quick energy throughout the day. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables and dairy products are all great sources of carbohydrates. Here are some tips to get the most from pre-fueling:

During Activity

Water regulates our temperature and transports nutrients to where they are needed in the body. Without it, our bodies cannot function properly and we are more prone to overheat. Water intake during physical activities is extremely important for children to replenish fluids lost through sweat and prevent these side effects. Aim to drink 5-10 ounces of water every 15-20 minutes. Sports drinks are designed to provide quick energy, as well as restore sodium and water lost through sweat. However, because of their high sugar content, fueling with a sports drink is only necessary during an endurance sport lasting over an hour.


During physical activity, children use a lot of stored carbohydrates this is what leaves the body feeling tired. Refueling the body after sporting games/matches is important to replenish depleted carbohydrates. Refueling the body with protein is also important after physical activity because of its ability to help build and recover muscle tissue. Here are some tips for post-game/match fueling:

Busy fall schedules filled with sporting events and extra-curricular activities can take a toll on children. Adequate meals and snacks help ensure that young athletes have enough energy to tackle their active days and do their best.


Basia Drilling is a Children's Hunger Alliance dietetic intern from The Ohio State University.



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