Our house is all soccer right now, balls, cleats, shin guards and laundry! Planning how to feed the kids for practice and games has me wondering… what should I feed them to keep their tummies settled and energy up? Here are a couple of ideas to put into action for the next game.
Macronutrients- a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, & fats
Provide a well balanced meal for the little athletes particularly leading up to activity. and following games and practices. Use these general guidelines:
45-65% carbohydrates including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, milk, and yogurt
10-30% protein including red meat, chicken, fish, eggs, beans, nuts and seeds
25-35% fats including red meat, skin on poultry, fish, nuts, seeds, dairy products, olive oil, avocado, coconut milk, and coconut oil
I do not suggest calorie counting, although as a general rule vegetables should make up 1/3 to 1/2 of the plate, protein should be the size of the palm, and fats should be added after cooking whenever possible.
Micronutrients- to include vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients
The micronutrients are just as important as the macronutrients, so be sure to add lots of color, found naturally in fruits and vegetables along with variety to you kiddos meals for optimal performance and recovery. Below are some of the key micronutrients needed for soccer:
Calcium- for bone health and muscle contraction, good sources include leafy greens, oranges, pomegranate, broccoli, and yogurt.
Vitamin D- for bone health, as well as absorption and regulation of calcium… one of the best ways to get this is 20 minutes a day of exposed face and arms with no sunscreen. Food sources include egg yolk, salmon, edible mushrooms and sardines.
Iron- f or oxygen delivery to body tissues, get it from red meat, eggs and leafy greens.
Magnesium- important in oxygen uptake, energy production (ATP), and electrolyte balance (sodium, potassium, and calcium), find it in leafy greens, banana, almonds, cashews, soybean, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, dark chocolate, and broccoli.
Antioxidants- are phytonutrients that help in cell damage, and immune support. They can be found in berries of all colors, artichoke, and dark chocolate.
Creatine- a non-essential amino acid (our body can make it), used as building blocks for muscle mass and a co-factor in ATP (energy production for the body), can be found in red meat and salmon.
Caffeine- has the potential to improve cognition during performance, I AM NOT SUGGESTING YOU GIVE YOUR KIDS COFFEE… simply that you might enjoy a cup of coffee or green tea before your next bike ride to hone in on your superpowers!
For sport lasting longer then one hour, introduce an electrolyte drink that contains 6% carbohydrate, I like this one, no added color with mild sweetness and flavor. Remember to hydrate before (13-20 ounces), during (5 ounces every 20 minutes of play) and after activity (25-50 ounces). After sport we are replenishing lost fluids due to sweating. Also keep in mind that individual genetics, body weight, temperature and humidity of region will impact hydration needs.
Soccer season is training for kids and we should feed them as such, providing well balanced meals with all the macronutrients and lots of variety, so they get the needed micronutrients. Begin preparing for games the night before with good nutrition and hydration, fuel up 3 hours before the game to allow for proper digestion, and use light snacking to keep fueled leading up to game time.
Fuel up with a real whole food protein source after activity to help build muscle. Milk is naturally an excellent electrolyte source and is ideal post game… so that ice cream stop after the game… it might be just right!
Nielsen, F., Lukaski, H. (2006). Update on the relationship between magnesium and exercise. Magnesium Research, 19(3):180-189. doi:10.1684/mrh.2006.0060
Oliveira, C., Ferreira, D., Caetano, C., & et al. (2017). Nutrition and Supplementation in Soccer, Sports, 5(28).
Purcell, L. K., & Canadian Paediatric Society, Paediatric Sports and Exercise Medicine Section. (2013). Sport nutrition for young athletes. Paediatrics & Child Health, 18(4), 200–202.