It is no surprise that exercising uses up energy stored within the body. Our bodies use carbohydrates and fats to sustain athletic performance during sprinting, jumping and lifting as part of many sports we play. As a result, a key question we often hear from clients is, “What should I eat after a workout?”
This post focuses on what to give your kids after they exercise. It is important to remember that children’s systems function differently than adults’, and the same rules of thumb that you use to get you through a workout may not be appropriate for your kids.
Keep the Normal Routine
Yoni Freedhoff, a professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa and contributor to US News, recommends avoiding large snacks both before and after aerobic activity. If your child’s activity will be under an hour, natural biological systems provide sufficient energy to carry your child through their activity.
His advice on hydration is similar. Freedhoff suggests water: one glass of it before hitting the field, followed by a small cup every 20 minutes throughout their activity. For activity under four hours, there is little risk of excessive electrolyte loss. However, if you are still concerned, there is little need for sugary sports drinks. Instead, have your children eat fruits, salted nuts, pita with spread, or a homemade granola-style bar to replenish these nutrients.
For Serious Athletes
Nemours Health System points out that children who exercise for 1.5 to 2 hours or more per day may need to consumer more food than the average active child. Working with a doctor or dietitian is the best way to determine exactly how much food your child needs for elite athletic performance. However, these pointers help keep your child performing well during extended physical activity:
Include Carbs: Although numerous plans have discouraged weight-conscious adults from eating large volumes of carbohydrates, they should be an important source of fuel for children. For kids, “carb-loading” is not necessary. When looking for carbohydrate options, choose whole-grain foods such as whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, fruits, and vegetables.
Remember Protein: Protein rich foods such as fish, poultry and lean meat help adults and children alike build and repair muscle after athletic activity.
On Game Day: Eating a full meal ~3 hours before activity should feature carbohydrates and a moderate amount of protein. Keep fats and fiber to a minimum because they take longer to digest and can cause upset stomach. If your child eats less than three hours before competing, serve a lighter meal. Various fruits, vegetables, crackers and breads are good building blocks.
The Post Game: Focus on carbs immediately after exercise. In the 24 hours after exercise emphasize replenishing lost fluids, and help your child focus on eating a balance of lean protein, carbs and fat.
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