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Healthy Fuel for Youth Soccer Games and Practices
Practices are a good way to test what snacks work best for your child in regards to energy and performance. Just as the old adage goes for adult athletes, “Do not try anything new on race day;” this also can be applied to youth soccer players. Testing what food works well for pre/post practice can then be applied to pre/post games.
A snack before a soccer practice or game should be something that isn’t heavy, but is enough to keep kids fueled. Try to fuel muscles 1-2 hours before an athletic event. Some kids will need two hours to digest before they play. This depends on the individual kid and timing of eating needs to be experimented with at practices. Also, a snack that travels well is best, since travel to and from games is commonplace. Make sure to avoid fatty foods, extra sweet foods, and caffeine. These cause spikes in blood sugar, and then sugar levels can drop quickly during performance. This will make kids feel sluggish.
- Here are some examples of good pre-practice and pre-game snacks:
- Whole grain bread w/peanut butter
- Cereal that is low in sugar
- Low-fat cheese
- Turkey or chicken
- Fruit, such as: apples, bananas, pears, oranges
Post-soccer practice or post-soccer game snacks are something one needs immediately following the event. First thing is fluids. Some examples are water, chocolate milk or natural fruit juices. Sports drinks can be included as recommended fluids, as they aid in replacing electrolytes, but read the labels to make sure there is no caffeine. After fluids are replenished, youth athletes need a mixture of food that includes both carbohydrates and protein. Again, something fast and that travels easy is likely to be a good choice. This way, kids can eat something on the car ride home and they won’t be starving by the time they eat their next meal; which is not good for their blood sugar levels to dip too low.
- Some good post game and practice snacks are:
- Fresh fruit with peanut butter
- Dried fruit with low fat cheese
- Granola bars that are low in sugar
- Bagel w/peanut butter
- Yogurt – low fat
- Trail mix – with nuts and dried fruit
Some of the pre- and post- snacks are the same. Overall, pre-exercise snacks tend to be lower in sugar in order for blood sugar levels to be more even during an athletic event. Post game snacks have the mixture of carbohydrates and protein in order to quickly replace energy stores that were used during exercise.
In short, each child is different in regards to timing and types of fuels. What works great for one youth athlete may not work for another. A little advance planning on testing foods and fluids pre/post practice will ensure proper fueling – and better performance – for game-time.