By M. M. DONALDSON
The spring season brings on busy evenings filled with sports practices, whether it is T-ball for the little ones or community league baseball for the adults. The fast pace of practice can quickly transfer to drive-thru meal options afterwards. But is there a better way?
Nutrition is just as important as good equipment when it comes to performance. Picnic-style meals or multiple healthy snacks can pinch hit for a full meal. Grapes, blueberries, apples and bananas are highly portable fruit snacks. Carrot sticks, cut-up cauliflower and cherry tomatoes fit the veggie category when trying to grab a bite between activities.
For more of a meal, meat, cheese and veggies can be rolled up in a tortilla or pita and does not necessitate cutlery or plates. Good ole peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat bread may not be exciting but provides a rich source of protein needed to rebuild muscles and is a good source of fiber to fill you up without feeling weighed down.
When packing snacks, keep in mind that food, such as meats and cheeses must be kept cool with an ice pack.
Hand washing with soap and water is considered the best bet according to the Centers for Disease Control but hand sanitizers work well on the field.
Hydration is important. Keep lots of water on hand and forego sodas. The sugar ties up energy for digestion that could be used for running bases.
Sports drinks tend to have added sugars and electrolytes, specifically sodium, that are not needed except for intense exercising lasting for more than an hour or the athlete experiences excessive sweating due to high temperatures, according to a 2012 Nutrition Reviews article.
Marketing companies for these beverages attempt to link athletic performance with their product, but neglect to inform on what happens when consumed with a sedentary lifestyle. The Committee on Nutrition and the Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness examined the impact of sports drinks and found them to be a contributor to childhood obesity. The meta-analysis published in the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2007 further concluded youth athletes using sports drinks to supplement electrolytes is not necessary in most instances and should not be used in place of water.
Studies have touted chocolate milk as a good after practice recovery drink, providing proteins, carbohydrates and other nutrients.
The study published in the Journal of Exercise Physiology in 2011 stated that low-fat chocolate milk was just as effective as any of the sports drinks with synthetically created nutrients marketed for post workout recovery. Additionally, the study concluded that low-fat chocolate milk was less expensive and more readily accessible.
Although this and other published studies used adult male subjects ranging from trained triathletes to club sports runners and recreational college soccer players, low-fat chocolate milk may provide benefits for athletes of any age or participation level. Youth who participate in recreational sports may find the post work out low-fat chocolate milk consumption as a way to ensure they are getting their recommended three cups of dairy per day.
Kids are not likely to sign on to the idea of healthy snack options when they expect fast food or sweetened treats. Teaching them the value of healthy food as a part of their sports training may increase the likelihood of becoming part of their routine.
M. M. Donaldson is a staff writer with The Voice and a journalism student at WCC. She has a bachelor of science in family and community services from Michigan State University, and has several years’ experience with nutrition issues affecting infants through older adults.