Sports nutrition is a “hot” topic these days and one that deserves a lot of attention from athletes, coaches and parents. Food provides the body with the fuel it needs to perform at its best, so what and when an athlete eats is an important consideration. Unfortunately, athletes of all ages have their own individual preferences and it can be difficult to find food items that will appeal to a mass audience. However, there are several suggestions that can help with pre-game and halftime meals.
The number one rule is EAT! I know it sounds simple, but the body needs fuel in order to perform. Your players should eat a good meal the night before a contest. Depending on game time the following day, they may also need to eat several small meals spaced out over 3-4 hour intervals to ensure their bodies have adequate energy.
What to eat largely depends on a person’s likes and dislikes. In general, carbohydrate-rich foods like pasta, breads, rice, potatoes, fruits and vegetables should constitute the bulk of the pre-game meal. Protein-rich foods like meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and dairy should also be featured, but to a lesser extent that the carbohydrate-rich items. Choosing foods low in fat is always a good idea.
Staying hydrated is also essential before practices or competitions. Maintaining optimal hydration is an around-the-clock job and should be a priority for every athlete. Encourage your players to drink often throughout the day, even if they don’t feel thirsty or aren’t playing football. Water and sports drinks are good choices. Please encourage your players to avoid sodas and juices due to the high sugar content.
Maintaining hydration is also important during the game and your players should be encouraged to drink whenever they get the chance. Ask parents to provide a sports drink during halftime. These beverages taste good which may lead your players to drink more and they contain electrolytes which can help prevent cramping.
Snacks like bagels, fruit, granola or cereal bars are all good halftime choices. You may also find that some players are very picky about their snack or drink choices. Encourage parents to bring a couple of options if possible.
The evaluation of any athlete, whether as a part of health evaluations prior to activity or as a diagnosis of an injury as the consequence of sports activities, is specific to that individual and the history and current state of the individual presented. Advice, diagnosis and treatment is individualized according to numerous factors, including patient health and age information, medical history and symptoms. All athletes should be cleared by a physician or other appropriate medical professional before engaging in physical activities and, after injury, diagnosis and treatment, for return to play.