A few weeks ago I came across something on Facebook that caught my eye…a mom was SO happy and proud that she received a letter from her AYSO soccer coaches explaining a new policy for “post-game” snacks. Yes, this was the time when many parents decided they would “reward” kids for their “hard work” on the field by bringing cupcakes, cookies, chips and juice boxes to the field. The new AYSO policy is described as the “Fruit and Water Policy.” If parents are signing up to bring snacks this season, they must choose from sliced oranges, grapes, apples, bananas, berries, cantaloupe, peaches, pears or mixed fruit kabobs and for the “Water” policy part, kids are encouraged to bring their own refillable water bottles, no other drinks allowed.
Of course, I also am ecstatic that the league is paying attention to what these young, impressionable athletes are eating immediately after their games. However, I have a small problem with this…the AYSO league is a “volunteer-driven youth soccer program for kids 4 ½ to 19 years old.” The organization is comprised of over 50,000 teams and 500,000 players nationwide. So this policy could potentially affect many, many athletes. Unfortunately, it may be somewhat misguided…and this is why:
I have written before about Post-Game Snacks, but I think it’s worth revisiting some of the important concepts. My concern is that these young (and some not so young) athletes come away with the idea that fruit and water alone are the ideal post-game snack. Immediately following exercise (whether it is a game, practice or workout) our bodies NEED several components in order to best replenish nutrients and rebuild muscle. We also know, from sports nutrition science, that GLYCOGEN is an athlete’s most precious asset. Glycogen is stored energy, the energy that helps prevent “hitting the wall” or running out of fuel. This glycogen must be replenished each time after exercise (practice or game), especially for those athletes playing multiple sports or training twice a day.
The important thing to remember about glycogen is that our “golden window” to replenish it occurs during the 15-30 minutes immediately following exercise. The body can create glycogen 2x faster during this time than any other. However, the body needs not just carbohydrates, but also protein in order to rebuild this glycogen (the ideal ratio is 4:1 carbs:protein). This is concern #1 for me. Although I realize AYSO is meant to be a recreational league, I know some of the older kids playing AYSO may also play in other more competitive leagues or may play another sport at the club level, so I feel it’s important for them to understand the basics of real sports nutrition.
With that said, a proper “Post-game snack” should contain a good amount of carbohydrates (as in fruit, which I do love and use A LOT in my post game snack, because it also has a high water content). But, it also needs to have a small amount of good quality protein. SO, if your league has a “fruit and water only policy” I recommend adding a small amount of protein soon after the practice or game is over.
Examples of great post-game snacks
- Whole wheat bagels and cream cheese
- Crackers, cheese and grapes
- Bread, nut butter (if allowed), banana
- Bean and cheese burrito
- Veggies and hummus
- Turkey rollup with veggies, or half sandwiches with PB & J or turkey/cheese
- Fruit salad or kabobs and yogurt or string cheese
- Homemade trail mix with whole grain cereal, nuts (if allowed), pretzels and dried fruit
- Yogurt, fruit and granola
- Fruit smoothie (I freeze them into “popsicles”)
- Fruit muffin and yogurt
A word about muffins…I LOVE muffins because they are an excellent vehicle for vegetables, fruit and good quality protein (like greek yogurt)…kids (and adults) LOVE them every time! Yes you actually have to bake, but it literally takes minutes, or you can make ahead and freeze.
Most importantly, don’t forget to make it FUN! Especially for the younger kids! It is VERY important they learn to appreciate that healthier snacks can be tasty and fun!
Chocolate milk in sports nutrition. I wrote about the role of chocolate milk in sports nutrition. It contains the necessary carbohydrates and protein to refuel and rebuild glycogen and it’s easy and well accepted by most athletes. In fact, professional sports trainers and nutritionists have been using chocolate milk for years, and kids may encounter someone who believes in it in the future.
Again, I congratulate the AYSO and concerned parents for taking the matter of post-game nutrition seriously, but it’s important to understand not just what these kid’s bodies DON’T need after a game (cupcakes, brownies, juice), but also understand what their bodies DO need in order to succeed for many years to come! Good luck this season! If you have any questions on this do not hesitate to contact me at http://doctorjacq.com/