A mom and her son and daughter eat dinner together at the kitchen table.

Fuelling young athletes before evening games

I know that there are a million other parents like me who love to watch their kids compete, are busy driving here, there, and everywhere, and are tight on time but want to make sure they are nourishing their athletes to help them perform at their best.

Eating the right foods before activities can give them the energy and stamina they need to perform, but also help support their overall growth and development.  

So, let’s dive into some fun and tasty tips to fuel up before hitting the field or court!

Tip #1: Start with a balanced meal

It sounds basic, but it’s often overlooked.   

To kick-start your game day, make sure they have a balanced meal a few hours before the event. Include all the essential macro-nutrients on their plate or in their lunch box: carbohydrates, proteins /fats, and colour. This combination will give them sustained energy throughout the evening.

For example, you can whip up a delicious chicken stir-fry with a colourful medley of veggies, served with a side of brown rice. This meal provides you with carbohydrates for energy, protein for muscle repair, and healthy fats for sustained energy. If lunch is their pre-activity meal then think of a sandwich with carrot sticks, apple slices, and a Greek yogurt.

Tip #2: Snack smartly

If their game is later in the evening, they may need a quick pick-me-up before. This is the power of snacks. Grab a nutritious snack that’s easy to digest and rich in carbohydrates. This will ensure they have a “top-up” of energy without feeling overly full or sluggish—for example, a fruit smoothie or some pretzels and strawberries.  

Tip #3: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

Staying hydrated is key for athletes of all ages. It’s crucial to drink plenty of water throughout the day, but pay extra attention leading up to the activity. Proper hydration ensures that their body functions optimally and helps prevent fatigue.

To make hydration more exciting, try infusing water with slices of fruit, like oranges or lemons, for a delicious twist. These hydrating drinks are not only tasty but also provide essential electrolytes that help keep your body balanced. 

Four glasses of water—one with sliced strawberries, one with sliced orange, one with sliced lemon, and one with sliced cucumber and lime.

Tip #4: Focus on complex carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are your body’s preferred source of energy, so make sure to include complex carbs in their pre-game meal or snack. Complex carbs take longer to digest, giving them a slow and steady release of energy to keep them going strong throughout the game.

For example, you can opt for foods like whole-wheat, whole-grain pasta, quinoa, or sweet potatoes. These complex carbs will provide a slow and steady release of energy, preventing any sudden crashes during the game. The fibre in these foods will also keep them feeling full and satisfied without weighing them down.

A bowl of whole-grain pasta on a wooden counter.

Tip #5: Don’t forget the protein

Protein is essential for muscle repair and growth, which is vital for young athletes. Ensure that their meal or snack contains a good source of protein—plant or animal—to support muscle recovery.

For example, you can grill up a juicy chicken breast or enjoy a tofu stir-fry along with your complex carbs. Other protein options include lean beef, fish, eggs, Greek yogurt, lentils, chickpeas, or seeds.  

Key takeaways

So there you have it, five fantastic tips for fueling up before your evening games! Remember, these are just a starting point. 

Feel free to get creative in the kitchen, include your kids in the process and / or consult with a performance nutritionist for personalized advice. Every athlete is unique, and finding the right fuelling strategies for them is essential. Keep encouraging them to exercise, eat whole foods, and have a blast on the field or court. 

In the comments section, let us know your favourite pre-game meal or snack. We’d love to hear from you!

Monika Tupholme is a respected athlete and sought-after performance nutritionist who works with busy, active families and young athletes to teach them key principles on how to support athletes nutritionally for optimal performance, better focus, and energy. She’s also a mom of two.

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One response to “Fuelling young athletes before evening games

  1. This website is great! I really enjoyed the research based article on young girls in sport but this article seems to be less based in research, or at least Tip #3 is a little off. It should emphasize drinking to thirst and shouldn’t indicate that dehydration causes muscle cramps (because it doesn’t). Hope my comment doens’t come off as rude – just wanted to point out some inaccuracies.

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