I do not know about y’all but I have Olympic fever! I get so excited that I wear out a track in our carpet from running the 100 yard dash fantasizing about the crowd cheering around me. Then there are the soccer games- which unfortunately I broke a vase or two while practicing my juggling watching the US Women’s Soccer team win their 2012 gold medal. It really is an exciting time where there is a lot of pride for one’s country.
I have two children (almost 14 year old and a 12 year old) and I would be lying if I said I did not have small fantasies about my kids going to the Olympics. I will admit that neither of them know about my Olympic dream, but it does get me through the hours I spend a day commuting them to soccer, volleyball, basketball, football, and of course the occasional trip to physical therapy….
Just like all the other sport moms out there, I try to fuel my kids so that they are ready for whatever comes their way during a game. There is so much information out there about what to feed kids pre-game, post-game, and sometimes even during the game, and it can get overwhelming. I am here to give you information that is good for the general student athlete. If you stopped reading during this paragraph then take away this one piece of advice – keep your kids hydrated and nourished year around so that they have a healthy base to start with, do not “cram” feed them once the season begins.
Lets start with the most important topic – WATER!!!!! One of the biggest nutritional and health concerns in athletes is water depletion. When athletes are involved in strenuous activity the only way to remedy the water loss is to add water back in. Any activity where sweating occurs requires the athlete to increase their water intake from the normal requirement of half the body weight in ounces to an additional 20-30 ounces (plus their regular water).
Extra minerals must also be replaced in athletes who sweat during endurance activity. The main minerals that need replacing are sodium, potassium, and magnesium. These can either be added to the water in trace mineral drops (always consult their healthcare provider before making any supplement changes) or replaced with food consumed after exercise. Sports drinks are good in theory, but they contain many chemicals and artificial colors that harm the body instead of helping fuel it. Better options are a vitamin C powder with calcium, magnesium, and potassium (allergy research company makes one), or make your own with a recipe like this:
Homemade Electrolyte Drink
- ½ tsp. real salt
- ¼ tsp. baking soda
- 7 c. filtered water (or 3 cups coconut water and 4 cups water combined)
- ½ c. lemon juice (fresh squeezed or organically fresh pressed)
- 1 Tbs. lime juice (fresh squeezed or organically fresh pressed)
- ¼ c. raw local honey or grade B maple syrup (or 1 tsp organic liquid stevia)
- Optional: 1/2 c. fresh pressed strawberry, watermelon, or any other berries.
Lets get back to our future Olympian’s diet…..
The adolescent diet is often high on the glycemic index, meaning there are more rapidly absorbing sugars. A diet higher in the complex carbohydrates, such as soaked beans, sprouted grains can help provide balance. Adolescents who eat more refined and heavily processed foods end up with nutrient deficiencies that can cause immediate and/or long term issues. While it is near impossible to keep your kids away from processed foods 100% of the time, having a house that is not full of junk food will help fuel them for sports and life.
If soft drinks (remember you can clean your toilet with soft drinks!) are consumed, then minerals are being depleted out of the body and it is likely there is a deficiency in calcium, vitamin D, iron, zinc, and manganese. It is very important that the day of the event that your athlete does not consume any caffeine or cola; also make sure they avoid salt tablets. Foods like brewer’s yeast, molasses, wheat germ, and nuts can be added to smoothies in order to improve their mineral and vitamin intake.
Antioxidant nutrients are also important for cellular rejuvenation, and the energy that young athletes need- blueberries, cranberries, acai berries, dragon fruit, grapes, sweet potatoes, carrots, dark leafy greens, and fish-are all foods that are high in antioxidants and will help fuel your Olympic hopeful.
Probiotic rich foods like fermented applesauce, fermented pickles, fermented fruits, sauerkraut, kefir, sourdough bread, etc… are also important for young athletes. These help grow good bacteria and fight off bad bacteria, which aids in quicker muscle recovery and prevents illness.
Sore joints and muscle aches are common for athletes; there are natural anti-inflammatory options that are easier on the body than Advil. Also the enzyme that comes from pineapple (bromelain) has mild anti-inflammatory effects and also aids in digestion. Some other natural healers like warm baths, massages, and slow long walks can aid in recovery.
Four to five days before an event/game, the athlete should increase their intake of proteins (chicken, fish, grass fed beef), fats (such as eggs, avocado, coconut milk/oil, or whole/raw organic dairy), and fruits to 50-60% of the diet. Then two – three days before the event, the complex carbohydrates should increase to 60-70% of the diet, eating at least three big meals of a mix of carbohydrates/protein/fats. This is the balance that continues until the day of the event. Depending on the day of the event and the time will depend on what kind of food your athlete should eat. Having something simple and hydrating like oranges with a slice of sprouted bread and almond butter would be good for an earlier game. As long as their “day of” meal is healthy and well-balanced then that is not as important as the nutrition they received leading up to the event. It is also important that after the event a healthy recovery meal is provided – one that is balanced in carbohydrates/fats/proteins (see chart).
This is a chart that shows the general balanced diet for our athletes
Feed them healthy and enjoy the Olympics – they are quite inspiring for our kids, and I hope they inspire yours to shoot for their dreams, no matter how big they are!!!
Comment all about your kids favorite healthy snacks and meals that keep them fueled for athletic activity. I love hearing other mom’s ideas for feeding their kids delicious and healthy food!