How To Give Your Child Athletes An Edge

Properly fueling the body before activities is essential. Too many take this lightly. Why pre-activity nutrition is important and should not be overlooked.

“Coach George, I think I’m going to be sick.” It was a Saturday morning game, one of those 8AM starts. Since it was still early in the hockey season, some of the other teammates were not present at the game, because of soccer commitments. So our team had a total of 10 skaters, which for ice hockey is about the bare minimum—2 full lines and 2 full defensive parings—and of course the goalie. Within seconds I watched the projection from the helpless 9 year old’s mouth, out through his metal face mask, and then trickle down his game jersey. I told him to just try to breathe normally, and that we would get him cleaned up. Then I looked to my left and my sole assistant coach for that game was holding onto the glass, contemplating whether or not to jump over the glass, and leave our player’s bench area so he could avoid the mess. So at that point I knew it was up to me to get my player cleaned up—in fact it is against USA hockey regulations for any player to be by himself in a locker room; the head coach could be fined or suspended. So here I was trying to run a game bench, and at the same time escorting a player into the locker room to get him cleaned up.

I thought this would be a good opportunity to ask: “What did you eat for breakfast?” “Nothing” was the reply. So after cleaning him up and returning to the bench, I figured I would take a brief poll. I walked behind the bench asking each and every player what they had for breakfast. “A donut.” “A Poptart” “Nothing.” “Juice.” “Goldfish.” Out of 10 players, only 3 said they ate a bowl of cereal or a piece of fruit. Ohhh, and this was a home game for us—most lived within 20 minutes of the rink.

It boggles the mind how good folks who want to do the right thing, outlay over a thousand dollars to enroll their child in ice hockey, purchase the best equipment, enroll in skills clinics, and make a seven month commitment so that their kids can be the best hockey players they can be. Then, the parents send their children to games without giving them the proper fuel to perform and heal properly. Since my wife is a dietitian, I guess I falsely assume that people know what to eat and feed their kids before activities.

So anyone who has children enrolled in sports activities, please don’t take proper nutrition lightly. Providing proper nutrition is the single best thing we can do to help our athletes perform to the best of their ability—and the single best thing to allow their bodies to heal.

Not only will proper nutritional choices provide a boost to the athlete’s performance, but the latest research shows that eating before activity increases healing and recovery. Nancy Clark is an expert who specializes in sports nutrition. Check out her blog site for an excellent resource of information.

And last but not least, here are my wife’s pre-activity nutrition tips in a nutshell:

  • You can only compete at your best if you can train at your best
  • Practice this pre-activity fueling to see what works best for your child
  • Carbs are needed to refuel the muscles
  • Protein builds and heals muscles
  • Eat a ratio of 3 (carbs) to 1 (protein)

SUGGESTED Pre-game Food Ideas:

Yogurt and fruit

Bagel, toast, or bread, with peanut butter Cereal and milk (dry cereal and milk box is quick) Fruit and cheese, or hard-boiled egg (made the night before) Granola bar, milk

BAD Pre-game Food  Ideas:

No high fat foods (i.e. donuts or pastry) No fried foods (i.e. donuts, French-fries) No refined sugar (i.e. candy, certain types of cookies, most pop tarts)


George Righter

About George Righter

American composer and musician who lives for the outdoors.

12. September 2012 by George Righter
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