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What To Feed Your Youth Athlete Before The Big Event?

Wendy Lynne, The Mental Toughness Trainer for Youth Athletes

The food your youth athlete eats prior to game time can have a big impact on their energy, stamina and overall performance. Just like an electric car won't run on regular gas, giving your youth athlete the wrong kinds of pre-game meals and snacks means you are not setting them up for success.

What your athlete should eat is often affected by the timing of their game. Here are three examples that should help:

For early morning games:

Sometimes your child's team may draw the short straw in a tournament and get scheduled for the first game of the day. Obviously you should not send your players out there on an empty stomach, but they will not have much time to eat and digest before they have to get moving. A glass of orange juice and a piece of toast or apple spread with peanut butter or a protein shake will get them through the first game. If they have time, add in a scrambled egg.

You want to give your athlete enough food to keep them full and focused, but sports parents should keep in mind this early morning pre-game meal isn't going to give your child the bulk of their energy.

It's important that they eat balanced meals that include complex carbohydrates for long term energy, lean protein to rebuild muscles, healthy fats and fiber (another name for vegetables) consistently throughout the whole week. This will ensure your athlete has the energy stores of nutrition they need to perform.

So the night before, make sure your youth athlete has a well-balanced meal.

In-between games:

An all-day tournament usually means your child's team only has a hour to 45 minutes between each game. They are going to need to eat something, but you don't want to weight them down with greasy or highly sugared fast foods. Just because it's fast, that doesn't mean it's a good idea!

Stick to GORP (good old raisins and peanuts) and other simple snacks like oranges and apples with a piece of cheese that will help stabilize their blood sugar, but won't make them feel stuffed.

Make sure to avoid those fluorescent colored energy drinks! Although they may taste good and are quick and easy to drink, they will quickly raise your athlete's blood sugar levels and then cause a crash in the middle of the day. Something you want to avoid with another 3 games ahead of them!

For night games:

Night games can get tricky assuming they have school all day and then a game at 5 or 6 PM. It may be tough to get them home for a well-balanced meal.

So on game days, their school lunch becomes very important. Pack them a lunch filled with fruit fresh (not "fruit" snacks), a sandwich on whole grain bread with a couple slices of turkey or chicken and lettuce and water. Keep it simple. You might also want to tuck in a few extra snacks like yogurt, homemade energy bar and carrot sticks for them to have later in the day, so they aren't hungry by the end of the day.

Here is a simple homemade energy bar recipe:

Five Minute, No-Bake Sunflower Seed and Oat Bars

Makes 10-12 bars

  • 2 1/2 cups rolled or quick oats (substitute gluten free oats if needed)
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds (raw or toasted)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chocolate or carob chips
  • 2/3 cup nut or seed butter of choice
  • 1/2 - 2/3 cup maple or brown rice syrup (adjust based on how well things stick together)
1) Mix oats, sunflower seeds, raisins, and carob chips in a large bowl.

2) Whisk together nut butter and maple syrup. Pour into oat mixture, and mix well, till everything is sticky and combined. If it's too dry, add a bit more syrup.

3) Press mixture into a shallow baking dish that you've lined with foil or saran wrap. Cover with more foil/saran, press well into the baking dish, and refrigerate for 4 hours. Cut into bar shapes, wrap, and keep refrigerated till ready to use. They ought to last two weeks at least.


4) After mixing wet ingredients with dry, crumble mixture into bite sized pieces and bake at 375 degrees for about forty minutes, or until crispy and brown.

Wendy Lynne is the Director of Mental Toughness Academy. The Academy's online Mental Toughness Training helps kids build confidence, focus, determination and the ability to bounce back from adversity - what we call Mental Toughness.

Her passion is helping kids, their parents and coaches transform their thinking so they lead happier, healthier and more successful lives.

For more great tips and to receive free "The 10 Commandments For A Great Sports Parent" ebook and Free training for youth athletes to learn how to "Perform Under Pressure" Tap here to get them Free.

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