Sports nutrition: 10 foods that will boost energy

By Janis Meredith | Posted 3/11/2015

Sports nutrition is just as important to your child’s game as practice. You can help your child be prepared by feeding him the right foods to boost energy. For many athletes, it may seem like a good idea to have an energy drink or something caffeinated before going to practice or a game, but these foods can have a negative impact on your child’s performance and health.

Instead of reaching for the nearest energy drink, teach young athletes to follow these sports nutrition suggestions for a healthy energy boost before performance:

  1. Bananas. Although bananas have more calories than most fruits, they are easy to digest and provide potassium, which can be depleted during extensive physical activity and is essential for the proper functioning of the nervous system. Eat two to three hours before an athletic event.
  2. Oatmeal. The carbohydrates in oatmeal are released slowly, providing consistent energy without the highs and lows that other carbohydrate-packed foods might produce. Best eaten a few hours before an athletic performance.
  3. Low-fat plain yogurt. Yogurt contains magnesium, which helps activate a body’s enzymes to promote the digestion and absorption of proteins and carbohydrates. It’s probably a good idea, however, to skip the yogurt before a game or practice for those sensitive to dairy. Eat two to three hours before. For an extra energy boost after a workout, add a sliced banana to a cup of plain yogurt.
  4. Fruits. Fruits are a good sources of energy immediately before an athletic performance. Apples, oranges, watermelon, peaches, blueberries and grapes can give the body a natural energy spike shortly before an athletic performance without weighing down the stomach or bothering the digestive system.
  5. Rolled oats. The fiber in oats slows glucose absorption into the bloodstream, helping to maintain peak energy levels. Rolled oats also are an excellent source of Vitamin B, which is great for energy production.
  6. Lentil soup. Lentils produce a low-glycemic response, which means no spike in blood sugar followed by an energy-sapping crash right in the middle of the game.
  7. Fresh figs. If you can handle them, three figs give 30 grams of good carbohydrates along with a multitude of B vitamins, calcium and potassium to help with muscle function and optimal bone health.
  8. Sweet potatoes. A sweet potato gives more than a quarter of your daily needs for vitamins C and E, nutrients that help prevent cell damage in athletes and enhance muscle recovery after training.
  9. Rice bran. Rice bran is full of nutrition, with five grams of carbohydrates and more than two grams of fiber in two tablespoons. It also has 23 percent of the RDA for magnesium, which helps the body produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The body uses ATP for energy and converts glycogen to glucose for use as the body’s fuel during exercise.
  10. Whole wheat pasta. Whole wheat pasta has nearly 40 grams of energy-rich carbohydrates per one cup (cooked) serving. Be sure you buy the healthiest whole wheat pasta, with at least four grams of dietary fiber and five grams of protein per two ounces dry (or one cup cooked) serving.

What energy-boosting foods have you and your child found as they’ve played sports?

Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach's wife, writes a sports parenting blog called JBM Thinks. She authored the Sports Parenting Survival Guide Series and has recently launched a podcasting series for sports parents. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.