Doing your best at training and practice requires eating enough healthy, nutritious foods throughout the day. Eating healthy food is also important to help your body recover and get stronger from your workouts. Here are some examples of types of healthy foods and how they assist your body:
- Starches and carbohydrates like whole grain pasta, rice, bread, potatoes, quinoa and fruit are the best source of energy for your muscles and brain. Brain power is important because many sports not only require endurance, but also reaction time and making good decisions quickly.
- Lean proteins like chicken, fish, meat, eggs, dairy and beans help provide the building blocks of your muscles to grow and develop. Dairy foods are also a great source of calcium that help build strong bones.
- Healthy fats like avocado, nuts, seeds and olive oil help provide your body with good sources of energy that assist in healing and recovery.
- Fruits and vegetables help your body stay strong and recover faster – everything from keeping your eyesight strong to reducing your risk of getting sick.
Also be aware that drinking fluids throughout the day, like water, is an essential part of maintaining a healthy body – about 60 to 70 percent of your body is water! When you exercise, especially in hot weather, you need extra fluid to work hard and stay focused.
While meals will provide the majority of your daily fueling, snacks can be an important addition to make sure you are getting in enough nutrients to support the added work of practices and training. Below is a guide for what foods are best for your snacks, depending on when your workout is that day:
Before Practice / Workouts:
Within a couple hours before practice, you want to make sure you have a snack that includes some starches/carbs and protein. Some examples include:
- Yogurt with fruit
- Bowl of cereal
- Fruit smoothie with yogurt or other source of protein
- Half a sandwich (or whole sandwich if a long time before practice)
- String cheese with crackers or fruit
- Mini-meal like chicken and rice
Be sure to also drink a glass or two of water before training if you are not having a smoothie.
During Practice / Workouts:
If your workout is shorter (less than an hour) and you’ve eaten within the past couple hours, you can probably just drink water and be fine. Try to drink a few (3 to 6) gulps of water every 15 to 20 minutes. If you have a longer and/or harder workout, you will need to add in some electrolytes (salt) and simple carbohydrates (sugar/starches) to keep your body fueling optimally. Some examples include:
- Sports drinks (has fluids too!)
- Granola bars
- Dried fruit
- Fruit / applesauce pouches
- Graham / animal crackers
- Gels / chews
Eat some periodically throughout training when practical (every 30 to 60 minutes) to keep yourself satisfied and energetic without feeling stuffed. If you are eating food, be sure to drink some water with it!
One additional note, if you are training in hot or humid weather, your body needs more fluids and fuel than normal, so drink more gulps of fluid than usual and don’t skip a break.
After Practice / Workouts:
After a hard practice or workout, aim to get the 4 R’s:
- Replenish (Carbs) – Carbs help replenish your muscle’s energy stores, much like adding gas to a car.
- Repair (Protein) – Protein helps rebuild your muscle, much like the bricks of a house.
- Rehydrate (Fluid) – Fluid (water) helps cool off your body and keeps your body and mind at its best.
- Rest – Giving your muscles and body adequate time to recover and get stronger before the next workout.
A great option during this time is chocolate milk – it has carbs, protein and fluids. However you can also have any of the snacks from the pre-workout list as well. Some additional examples include:
- Chocolate milk + piece of fruit
- Yogurt + granola bar
- Peanut butter + honey sandwich
Other Snacks for the Day
Extra snacks are helpful if you are training really hard and get hungry between meal times. Snacks should not replace or diminish your ability to eat at meals. While any of the pre-workout snacks are fine, you can focus on lots of other higher fat and fiber nutritious foods at snack times like:
- Veggies with hummus or guacamole
- Trail mix with nuts and dried fruit
- Apple or banana with peanut or almond butter
- Low-salt jerky and a piece of fruit
- Yogurt with granola or fruit