6 guidelines for pre-competition meals

By Janis Meredith | Posted 4/30/2014

Are you helping your child from the inside out? Beyond the practices and sports equipment, there is one sure way to help your child do his best in competition: feed him the right foods and drinks.

When feeding your athlete, keep this in mind:

  • Meals should be mostly high carbohydrate-type foods with small amounts of protein and fat. Breads, cereals, pasta, pancakes, rice, fruits, fruit juices and low-fat yogurt are acceptable. Steaks, eggs, french fries, hamburgers, hot dogs, nuts and bacon are high in fat or protein and should be used sparingly before competition.
  • Keep meals somewhat bland. Avoid spicy foods with pepper or chili powder and foods such as onions, cabbage, broccoli and beans. which can cause gas. 
  • Beware of fiber. Normally, fiber is a good thing, but some types of dietary fiber can cause an athlete to have to use the restroom during an athletic event. During the hours or day before a competition, avoid high-fiber foods such as beans, bran, nuts and raw vegetables.
  • Serve moderate meals. Because large meals take a long time to digest, they should not be eaten right before the competition. It’s better to serve large team meals the day before.
  • Drink up. Hydration should be a lifestyle. Drinking water during an event or just before will not keep the athlete properly hydrated. Athletes should be in the habit of drinking a lot of water.

Low-fat or skim milk and fruit juices are OK up to two hours before an event -- sports drinks and water after that. Steer clear of soda, tea and coffee. Sorry, Starbucks and Dutch Bros. lovers.

According to Kidshealth.org, the amount of fluid consumed in a day "depends on the individual's age, size, level of physical activity and environmental temperature" and "experts recommend that athletes drink before and after exercise as well as every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise."

  • Understand your child's specific nutritional needs. For instance, if your child plays a sports with constant running, he or she may need more calories each day. For instance, according to sports nutritionist Nancy Clark (www.nancyclarkrd.com), youth soccer players need to eat at least 3,000 calories a day for peak performance.

"You are what you eat" really shows itself in athletes. Kids who gorge on fast-food meals as they run from one sport field to another may take in a lot of calories, but those foods will not sustain them for long because they are processed and usually high in fats. Kids may perform poorly, slowly or sluggishly because they did not eat a healthy meal before they came or because they stuffed themselves with junk just before practice or a game.

If you truly want to help your athletes perform their best, feed them the right foods and instill habits of good nutrition that can help them succeed.

Janis Meredith, sports mom and coach’s wife, writes a sports parenting blog called JBM Thinks. Check out her Sports Parenting Survival Guide Series with survival guides for football, softball, basketball and volleyball moms.