After a hard practice, your student athlete is probably feeling exhausted and hungry—and it may be best if they don’t wait until the next meal before refueling!
TrueSport Expert Kristen Ziesmer, a registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, explains exactly what and when your athlete needs to eat after practice.
This can be tricky for parents of young athletes, since often, you’re picking your student up from practice and heading home to dinner in a couple of hours.
“I remember being at the end of those practices, I could eat a horse because I was so hungry, but I didn’t really think about eating a whole lot during the practice,” Ziesmer recalls.
It’s tempting to just wait until dinner, but she adds that eating within 30 minutes is ideal for young athletes because that’s when they are “most like sponges,” so they’re really going to soak up all the nutrients. Remember, it can be a smaller snack and your athlete shouldn’t be skipping dinner as a result of the post-workout meal.
“The primary goal of post-workout fueling is to get those amino acids back into your muscles to restore glycogen levels in muscles, which means eating protein and carbohydrates,” Ziesmer explains.
The ratio of protein to carbohydrates depends on what type of sport your athlete is in – endurance or power. If your child is doing more running and aerobic exercise, opt for a four-to-one ratio of carbohydrate to protein. An example of this is roughly 40-45 grams of carbohydrates to 10 grams of protein, so a piece of fruit, two servings of crackers, and two light string cheeses.
But if your athlete is in a more explosive sport that has sprinting or lifting, aim for a three-to-one ratio. An example of this is about 30 grams of carbohydrates to 10 grams of protein, or two servings of crackers and two light string cheeses.