The start of school also brings the start of sports for many kids. And whether your kid is a competitive athlete or signed up just to have some fun with friends, what he eats is vital to his success as well as to his enjoyment of the game.

Being a couch potato was not an option growing up. In addition to riding and showing horses, my parents had my sister and I enrolled in many different sports and activities. My mom wanted us to have the opportunity to try as many things as possible to find what fit. My sister excelled at softball, whereas I thrived in gymnastics and dance. So much so that my first entry into the health and wellness industry was as a fitness instructor/trainer which I completed in my high school grad year.

As an adult hardwired for fitness, it was only natural to give my kids the activity choices and fitness opportunities I grew up with. They all found their niche. My son took up kick-boxing and jiu-jitsu, my eldest daughter performed acro-gymnastics and my youngest daughter competed in various disciplines of gymnastics. Fast forward 15 years and she's still training and has been coaching now for the past six years. Being in the fitness industry for over 30 years and having had contact with so many young athletes and their families, I see the amount of work kids are willing to put into something they love to do. As parents and coaches, it's our job to support our kids in ways that help them get the best results and you may be shocked to hear that simply adding more training days is not always the answer.

Physical training is essential to learn new skills, technique, perfect form and test limits. Like fine-tuning the engine of a race car before the Indy 500. Good coaches also provide encouragement, support, motivation and inspiration knowing that mental preparedness is just as, if not more important than physical prowess. What good is the fine-tuned race car with a distracted driver behind the wheel? And no matter how many hours of physical or mental training the driver has under his belt, he won't make it off the starting line without the right fuel.

Coaches and (I hope) parents are beginning to recognize that kid athletes are no different from any other athlete. Those who pair their physical training with healthy, balanced nutrition get better results. And not only in their chosen sport but in school as well. I can say with absolute confidence and certainty that where training almost always falls short is not in the gym, on the field or in the ring, but in the kitchen. So how should we be fuelling our kid athletes?

First, you may have noticed I'm using word “fuel” rather than simply “food”. When foods are put together in a way that supports blood sugar, protects muscle, turns on metabolism and increases energy, your kid – or anyone else for that matter - isn't just eating and filling an empty gap, he's fuelling. In order to get that winning combination it's vital to build meals and snacks that contain a protein, fat and a carbohydrate, or PFC. Eating PFC every 3 hours throughout the day, together with proper supplementation, allows your kid to run faster, jump higher, kick harder and generally have more energy and an increased ability to focus on the game.

Foods like chicken (P) hummus (F) and veggies (C), unsweetened Greek yogurt (P) topped with nuts (F) and berries (C), or grilled steak (P) with salad and/or steamed veggies (C) and a dressing (F) are all great examples. If you're thinking “Well that's great for home, but what happens for those after-school and evening practices? Or tournaments on the road?” Great question! Packing to take food for your athlete on the go is critical. Stopping for fast food and downing sports drinks only serves to slow response time, cloud judgement and sap energy well before the finish line. Just like the tank of racing fuel keeps the Indy car on track, keeping a small cooler in the car filled with foods like turkey pepperoni/jerky, hard boiled eggs, fruit, veggies, nuts, protein bars, quality shakes and extra water ensures your kid athlete arrives at the field/studio/rink hydrated, fuelled, energized and able to give his/her best effort.

In the end, whether your kid is that competitive athlete heading for the pros or the recreational athlete playing a weekend game, when we give them what they need to feel, do and be their best, win or lose, the experience is just got a whole lot more fun. And isn't that truly what we all want?

Tania is available to share fuelling information with your kid's team and parents call 250.870.8719

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