Fall sports have begun and for many of us, that means our lazy summer days have come to a screeching halt!  Practice schedules, games and pretty soon school commitments will be filling up our calendars and getting food into our growing athletes can become pretty challenging!

When working with a student athlete, I often encourage them to make a bedtime snack a habit. Remember, kids are not little adults, they are GROWING and although, as adults,  we may shy away from a night-time snack, for the student athlete, it may be the only way they can consume enough calories to offset those utilized during training.  In addition, kids are super busy when they are not training – school, social activities, drivers ed, music lessons….  so busy in fact, that many times  they are not able to sit down and consume the amount of food they need  at other times of the day.

SLEEP

     Sleep serves many purposes, one of which is the process of re-building muscles.  Depending on when they eat dinner, an athlete can go anywhere from 10-12 hours without food.  This constitutes a “mini fast.”   Many athletes are exhausted when they get home from practice, have bellies full of water and consequently consume far fewer calories than they normally would at dinner.  If adequate calories are not consumed, the body may be forced to deplete its stores of glycogen (carbohydrate energy) and be forced to utilize muscle protein to keep the body going thru the night. This may result in slower muscle recovery time (increased soreness) and significantly decreased muscle growth.

NIGHT TIME SNACK HABIT

     Many of the above issues can be solved by encouraging a bedtime snack habit.  There is more to a bedtime snack than just calories.  It is important to consume the right balance of calories to help  muscles recover and be ready to hit the gym or field again the next day.  A balanced bedtime snack should be a combination of slowly digested protein to fuel muscle growth and carbohydrates to top off muscle glycogen stores.  An added benefit of a small balanced bedtime snack is it may encourage a good nights sleep because is helps to keep blood sugar stable.

BEDTIME SNACK IDEAS

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Bowl of cereal and milk, topped with berries or 1/2  banana

Peanut butter on rice cakes or whole grain crackers and milk

Smoothie made with greek yogurt or whey protein powder and fruit

Graham Crackers and milk or grahams dipped in greek yogurt

Granola bar and a glass of chocolate milk

Cheese and crackers or fruit

Cottage cheese and fruit

Trail mix

As you can see, I am not talking about eating a pizza or a huge bowl of ice cream before bed,  but rather a small balanced snack made up of slowly digested protein and carbohydrates.

Food is fuel and when balanced properly can have a HUGE impact on how your student athlete performs both on the field and in the classroom.

To Your Health – Noreen