I was asked by a Mom, “What should I give the kids while playing football?”
Football, soccer, rugby, baseball, basketball — what’s the best snack to provide your kids?
I’ve seen a lot of sliced oranges passed out at half time, and like many nutritional practices that have stood the test of time, this almost certainly has some merit. Some mom’s prefer pretzels because they contain high levels of sodium. But I’ve also seen a lot of donuts, cakes, and cookies handed out. Stay away from foods with hydro-genated vegetable oils or trans-fats. Food colorings and other additives are often contained in these kinds of snacks, which have been associated with disruptive behavior and poor concentration in school children. I’ve even noticed kids “space out” on the field after these types of snakes!
Concentrate on fluids, electrolyte and carbohydrate needs. If your child gets fatigue during games and his/her general performance declines towards the end of the game, they are not getting the right snacks.
I recommend the UltraMeal Bar (www.DrJeffreyTucker.meta-ehealth.com) as the best pre game snack (30-60 minutes pre-game) – it’s a mixture of protein and carbohydrates.
If two players have equal skill, or both teams have equal players, it is even more important to consider nutrition that may influence game skill and concentration when considering strategies to win. Carbohydrate depletion is associated with reduced exercise capacity and poor concentration – these are effects that may be compounded by dehydration. Both dehydration and muscle glycogen (sugar) depletion have been associated with injury and accidents, so efforts to prevent these affecting performances could have repercussions well beyond the immediate game.
The impact of how your child plays, could well depend upon prior meals and eating habits. Pre-game hydration is so important – keep it simple and give them water. If your child starts a game in a sub-optimal state of hydration they will be in a worse state at half-time.
Dehydration resulting in a loss of body mass of 2% or greater can result in reduced endurance exercise capacity, and sprinting and sport-specific skills can be adversely affected by losses of 3% or more. I don’t encourage players to consume more fluid than required to maintain performance, why weight them down!
During The Workout/Game: Should you have Gatorade vs. Water?
• At 200 calories per bottle, Gatorade is promised to replace your carbohydrates and electrolytes lost during an intense workout—and it also tastes pretty good. When you’re pushing hard during an event, is it better than water? No & yes! If your workout is longer than an hour, you might need all that sports science in a Gatorade, but for normal training sessions, hit the bottled water.
• During a long cardio session, you need the over-the-top advanced science of Gatorade.
Nutrients, especially electrolytes, may prevent fatigue and reduce muscle cramps in the second half. The most important electrolyte lost in sweat is sodium and research has shown a wide individual variation in sodium losses – as low as the equivalent of 1g of salt to over 6g in 90 minutes. Assuming that players start a game with reasonable sodium stores, most players are unlikely to become performance limited due to sodium depletion during one game; the main role of sodium in a half-time situation is to encourage fluid uptake in situations where large fluid volumes need to be consumed at half-time (because sodium stimulates thirst).
In players starting with an adequate nutritional status, performance towards the end of games depends on carbohydrate. Shortfalls are almost certainly responsible for fatigue in games, irrespective of player position or standard. Low carbohydrate levels can compromise mental skills as well as physical performance, and there is consensus that carbohydrate supplementation can improve performance.
It’s worth cautioning against a ‘one size fits all’ policy with regard to player nutrition. In hot conditions, and for players with very high sweat rates, more fluid may be needed to prevent dehydration reaching detrimental levels.
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