Health Tip: Game Day Nutrition

September 24, 2019

By Nick Parkinson, M.Ed., ATC, AT
Henry Ford Health System

Parents, you know how important it is for your student athlete to be well-rested, well-fueled and well-hydrated. Just like a car needs gas, their bodies needs food. 

So, whether they’re doing an intense workout during practice or competing in a strenuous game, it’s crucial for them to be properly hydrated and nourished, both before and after, so they can perform their best and recover properly.

Pre-Training Nutrition

The most important part of pre-training nutrition is making sure your child’s food choices give them the healthy energy boost they need for the type of physical activity they’re engaged in, and not a just quick sugar rush.

Carbohydrates may have a bad reputation, but they’re actually the body’s main source of energy. Before a workout, a healthy snack is a great idea. The trick is to eat far enough in advance to be able to digest before being active.

To ensure proper digestion while fueling up, follow these tips:

If there’s less than two hours until go time, try a quick snack like a banana, apple, or a small bowl of Greek yogurt with granola and fruit.

Have a little time to spare? You could try a brown rice bowl with sautéed vegetables or a cup of oatmeal topped with fruit.

Either way, carbs will fuel the body so your child can perform at his or her peak.

Post-Training Nutrition

After an intense workout or game, your child’s body is depleted of its nutrients. It needs to be recharged, which means eating carbs, fats and proteins. The word “fats” tends to scare people, but they’re actually a crucial component in building muscle and recovering.

After an event where your athlete worked out hard, encourage your child to eat something that includes multiples food groups. Try something simple like avocado or peanut butter toast, hummus with veggies and whole-wheat pita, or even a smoothie.

Hydration No Matter What

Regardless of the intensity of the workout, the most important thing is to keep your kid hydrated before, during and after.

It is recommended to top off water intake approximately two hours before any physical activity. Then, athletes should continue hydrating throughout. And while there are many sports drinks to choose from, the healthiest option is water. If you want to add some fun (and natural) flavors to them, try infusing with fruits and/or veggies.

Want to learn more? Henry Ford Health System sports medicine experts are treating the whole athlete, in a whole new way. From nutrition to neurology, and from injury prevention to treatment of sports-related conditions, they can give your athlete a unique game plan.

Visit or call (313) 972-4216 for an appointment within 24 business hours.

Coach's Guide to Nutrition: Window of Opportunity

The 30 minutes following exercise, often referred to as the window of opportunity, is the best time to begin to refuel, rebuild and repair muscles.

Milk Means More logoCarbs plus protein in this window can help your students refuel and be ready to attack their next workout.  

After an exercise session or game, muscles are depleted of glycogen, their primary energy source, and are in need of recovery from the stress of training. A small snack is all that is needed in this “window of opportunity.”

The focus should be on carbohydrates with some protein; the ideal snack would have more carbs than protein. Chocolate milk has both carbs and protein, along with electrolytes and fluids to rehydrate. Liquids are also more easily absorbed by the body to help refueling happen more quickly. Other refueling options could include a smoothie, yogurt and granola, or a cheese stick with fruit.

Within 2-3 hours, have a full meal to continue recovery.

Information above is excerpted from UDIM’s A Coach’s Guide to Nutrition.