WHEN TO EAT CERTAIN FOODS FOR PERFORMANCE
There are many different dietary lifestyles out there today. Keto, paleo, macrobiotic, vegan, vegetarian. While these dietary lifestyles hold validity, based on prior health conditions you may experience over the course of your lifetime, the most sustainable dietary lifestyle for athletes is a diet rich in whole natural foods.
The below guidelines will help you fuel your growing athletes on and off ice.
Load up on clean carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are most easily digested and are our main source of fuel when performing aerobic activity. It is because our bodies respond best to this jolt of healthy energy that I suggest using carbohydrates as the main food before a game or practice.
I often suggest a bowl of oatmeal 1-2 hours before a game (especially morning games), with some nuts/seeds, cinnamon and a drizzle of raw honey. For later games, you could, opt for sweet potato, wild or white rice or whole grain pasta (if tolerated), within that 2 hour mark before your athlete hits the ice. If 1-2 hours is not possible as an eating window and you are looking at 1 hour before ice time, stick to a smoothie (water or almond milk, 1/2 cup of berries, or 1/2 banana, spinach (for greens), and 1/4 of pumpkin seeds for protein). If your ice timeline is 30mins or less a piece of fruit (orange, apple, cup of berries or pear, or 2 madjool dates) is perfect, as fruit is digested within about 10-15mins.
Get enough protein, but not too much
Egg whites are a terrific source of protein and digest relatively quickly before a game. Nut butters, like almond or peanut butter (if tolerated) are also great sources, If you have a child that is picky, try toast with fried egg white or toast with nut butter (for allergen free sunflower butter) and a piece of fruit (berries, banana) on the side.
Go Easy on fat
Fat takes much longer to digest. So, you want to save this amazing nutrient for post game meals. Fats provide satiety and slow down the digestive process. I suggest keeping fats to a minimum pre-game.
Quick Tip – Stay away from Sugar! This is incredibly important, sugar will negatively impact your child’s performance and level of skillful play. Avoid it at all costs Pre and Post game!
Get plenty of Protein
2-3 1/2 ounces as a staple or 15- 20 grams per meal. Sources include: pastured chicken, turkey or pork, grass fed/finished beef wild caught fish (salmon, haddock, halibut, cod), non-GMO Tofu, Tempeh, beans and lentils. I tend to recommend avoiding soy if you are male or cannot verify that your soy has been ethically sourced. Proteins, will help with muscle tissue repair and growth, overall recovery of your athlete and build every cell in the body. Use the palm of your athletes hand as your guideline for portion size.
Have a healthy dose of vegetable sourced carbohydrates
Sweet potato, carrots, beets, wild rice, whole grain pasta, or whole grain bread (with the germ) are all great sources. Aim for 1/2 cup to support recovery of glycogen stores lost during the practice/game. Again, as they are our cells preferred energy source, in the right amounts, and from plant based sources these babies are very important!
It’s time to add in FATS!
1 tbsp of olive, coconut, avocado oil, or a 1/4 cup of avocado or nuts/seeds, support controlled digestion by slowing down the release of carbohydrate in our blood creating sustained energy, fuel brain function, cushion or joints, surround our cell walls, provide transfer of nutrients into our cells and ensure optimal nervous system function.
HYDRATION IS EVERYTHING!
Drink WATER…. Early and often and stick to water… Water only!
Our bodies are 60-65% water. Infant’s ratios are even higher (around 75-80%). Water is necessary for the breakdown and transport of nutrient materials across and through our cells.
This means, if you are not drinking water, early, often and continuously you are damaging the very make up of your cells.
Side note for parents: coffee, and black teas don’t count! Caffeine is a diuretic, leaching an average of 3 cups of water from our system. If you begin your day with coffee you are already at a water deficit. I am not saying don’t drink your coffee, just perhaps consider having some water before and after that blessed “cup of joe”.
When we sweat, we lose water through our sweat glands. So we need to replenish all day long!
The average person loses up to, half a pint of water through their feet alone every day! California Podiatric Medical Association
Water is responsible for moving nutrients around the body. It decreases inflammation, controls body temperature, is beneficial for cushioning our joints and is paramount in flushing bacteria and toxins from the body.
As an athlete, more water is necessary to support energy metabolism along with the functions above. I recommend, starting each day with a full glass of water before food is consumed and ensuring your athlete drinks at least 1.5 litres of water a day. During the game they should finish their water bottle before they have left the dressing room (post game)!
What about Electrolytes?
It is true, we need to ensure our cells are not only hydrated but balanced in sodium and potassium. When we sweat, we lose these minerals and therefore must replace them to maintain proper balance in our cells.
Side note: Bananas and pumpkin seeds are great sources of potassium.
While companies like Gatorade have been cleverly marketed as the electrolyte replacement drink for athletes. I recommend you simply add a sprinkle of sea salt to your child’s water. The added sugar and brain/hormone disrupting chemicals contained in gatorade and other sugary drinks are no match for pure water.
How much sleep is enough for my athlete?
Question? “How many hours of sleep do you need every night as an athlete?“
The average person needs 7-9 hours of sleep each night. As an athlete, expending more calories, due to exercise, you may need more like 8-10. Children, naturally need more sleep, as their brains and bodies are growing rapidly. They need more time to turn over dead cells and detoxify, all of which happen most efficiently when a sleep.
How do you get ready to have a good night’s sleep?
Establish a bedtime routine every night. Forming bed time habits, assist your mind and body in winding down, so you can drift off to sleep easily.
Bathe/shower, brush your teeth, put on your PJ’s and read a book with your family.
Go to bed at the same time each night
Get up around the same time each day.
Avoid screens and blue lights 1-2 hours before bed.
Listen to white noise.
Use amber coloured light bulbs or salt lamps in your rooms
Take magnesium before bed to help your brain and muscle relax and recover.
I hope you enjoyed part-two of this blog series about, how to ensure your athlete is fed, fuelled, hydrated and rested for optimal performance .
Let me know in the comments section below what other information, tips or recipes you would like to see in future blog posts!
Your health and wellness coach,