Fall sports have begun and for many of us, that means our lazy summer days have come to a screeching halt! Practice schedules, games and pretty soon school commitments will be filling up our calendars and getting food into our growing athletes can become pretty challenging!
When working with a student athlete, I often encourage them to make a bedtime snack a habit. Remember, kids are not little adults, they are GROWING and although, as adults, we may shy away from a night-time snack, for the student athlete, it may be the only way they can consume enough calories to offset those utilized during training. In addition, kids are super busy when they are not training – school, social activities, drivers ed, music lessons…. so busy in fact, that many times they are not able to sit down and consume the amount of food they need at other times of the day.
Sleep serves many purposes, one of which is the process of re-building muscles. Depending on when they eat dinner, an athlete can go anywhere from 10-12 hours without food. This constitutes a “mini fast.” Many athletes are exhausted when they get home from practice, have bellies full of water and consequently consume far fewer calories than they normally would at dinner. If adequate calories are not consumed, the body may be forced to deplete its stores of glycogen (carbohydrate energy) and be forced to utilize muscle protein to keep the body going thru the night. This may result in slower muscle recovery time (increased soreness) and significantly decreased muscle growth.
NIGHT TIME SNACK HABIT
Many of the above issues can be solved by encouraging a bedtime snack habit. There is more to a bedtime snack than just calories. It is important to consume the right balance of calories to help muscles recover and be ready to hit the gym or field again the next day. A balanced bedtime snack should be a combination of slowly digested protein to fuel muscle growth and carbohydrates to top off muscle glycogen stores. An added benefit of a small balanced bedtime snack is it may encourage a good nights sleep because is helps to keep blood sugar stable.
BEDTIME SNACK IDEAS
Bowl of cereal and milk, topped with berries or 1/2 banana
Peanut butter on rice cakes or whole grain crackers and milk
Smoothie made with greek yogurt or whey protein powder and fruit