What do you pack to feed your teen athlete who competes at all day sporting events?
Parents are always asking for my suggestions when it comes to feeding their athlete, whether it be for a short event or an all day tournament.
The most important thing to keep in mind is this: Snacks, and food in general, is the fuel a young athlete needs to compete well.
Not treats, not rewards.
What Foods Should My Athlete Eat?
Food provides an energy source from which your child draws on, especially when at all-day sporting events. You want this food to be “premium” fuel–not low-octane fuel.
What are All-Day Tournaments?
When you have an athlete who competes in day long sporting events like swim meets, tennis matches, soccer tournaments, and the like, you have to be prepared. This means having a plan for food, whether it be packing food from home or planning to go out during game breaks.
The last thing you want (and worst thing) is your athlete eating candy out of the concession stand!
Wonder why? Read this article about concession stands at sporting events.
You can help your athlete keep pace during all-day tournaments with these 7 tips.
7 Tips to Fuel Young Athletes
1. Pack a Variety of Foods
You don’t have to bring the refrigerator! A few options of fruit, vegetables, grains and high quality protein sources should cover your athlete’s variable appetite at a long event. Pack several food options instead of a large quantity of only two or three foods and the odds are your child will eat out of your igloo rather than the concession stand.
2. Pack Enough Food
You don’t want to run out of food, and you may even want to share with other athletes (well-fueled athletes help the whole team, right?).
3. Pay Attention to Food Temperature
If you are packing perishables, be sure to add an ice pack or two…or more. It’s no fun to get tummy cramps before an event because food has spoiled.
4. Pack in the Protein
Protein will be an ally in keeping your athlete’s blood sugar, hunger and mood stable. Nibble on cheese sticks or slices, nuts, peanut or nut butters, rolled deli meat slices, meat jerky, yogurt or yogurt drinks, boxes of low fat milk, hummus or edamame.
5. Don’t Forget the Carbs
Muscles rely on carbohydrate for immediate and long-lasting fuel. Pack an assortment of easily digestible sources like 100% juice, fruit leather, applesauce, fresh or dried fruit and veggie sticks for a quick pick-me-up.
Complex carbohydrate foods, such as crackers, unsweetened dry cereal, pita, bagel or other breads, pretzels and graham crackers help give the young athlete that longer-lasting source of carbs which helps performance.
Dairy sources like chocolate milk is a good combination food, providing both protein and carbohydrate sources.
6. Think your Drink
Water, 100% fruit juice and sports drinks are appropriate at a sporting event that showcases multiple games or events like a swim or tennis meet. If it’s a short soccer game (less than an hour), keep it to water.
Plain and flavored milk are great drink choices during and after competition—they provide protein for muscle repair and carbohydrate to re-fuel muscles.
7. Nosh or Nibble on Food?
Nosh on “meals” or larger quantities of food during big breaks between sporting events. Nibble small amounts of food before and after events which are closely scheduled.
At a minimum, your teen athlete should be nibbling to stay energized and keep muscles fueled for a competitive edge.
Written by: Jill Castle, MS, RDN
Published on: February 22, 2012
Updated on: September 21, 2019