Fueling the athlete- interview with Kelly Springer, RD and US Lacrosse contributor

So much information circulates with regard to nutrition and fueling athletes and quite frankly just feeding our children in general.   At times this information can be confusing or contradictory, leaving us to do what we believe to be best or perhaps subjected to the latest marketing masters.

Just For Lax Moms decided to reach out and gain insights and information from Kelly Springer, a well renowned Registered Dietician, founder of Kelly’s Choice and regular contributor to Inside Lacrosse as well as a speaker at US Lacrosse conferences.   Kelly has a simple, smart and straightforward approach to health & well- being and how to best fuel our young athletes.

She spoke to us about general nutrition and approaches for optimizing performance in young athletes both on and off the field.   Here are some of her key messages and approaches regarding sports nutrition and laying out a solid nutrition plan.

Ongoing nutrition and planning year round:

Power of 5: Fruits, Protein, Vegetables, Whole Grains and Hydration and the Athletes Plate

25% Protein      15-20 grams each meal time; plain Greek yogurts, eggs, turkey, fish, chicken, vegetarian options

25% Whole Grains- Size of fist-   whole wheat pasta, quinoa, whole grain rice, beans,

50% Vegetables-  Frozen is just as good as fresh

Fruits 1-2/ servings a day- fresh whole fruits

She shared some ideas of “on the go snacks”:

Veggie trays already done

Kind bars

Handful of nuts daily

Whole grain chips and guacamole

Kelly says better off to just eat the foods and not all these “health shakes” as many people don’t realize all they are putting into them.  She also said people are eating too much snacks and granola bars which are full of sugars and other additives.

As for pre-game fueling before playing at a tournament, eating light and not too heavy 1-2 hours before game time is best.  She said eating things like eggs and bacon just before game play is not helpful as you don’t have time to digest and effectively utilize the food and energy for the game.

We talked at length about hydration, given the prevalence of use of sports drinks, and what is really needed to replace fluids and electrolytes.  What she has to say may surprise many of you and may certainly not be what your young athletes want to hear, but the hard cold truth is sport drinks are not fueling our athletes but rather ramping them up with sugars and other unnecessary things.

The most well- known, Gatorade, was developed for the Florida Gaters who spent hours and hours in the hot Florida sun.  Scientist formulated what was then a much lighter and clearer drink to replace electrolytes.  As the popularity grew and it became a viable product to market the makers of Gatorade changed the formula to have nearly double the sugar and added all kinds of coloring to appeal to the masses.  The reality is most of us, especially our young athletes, do not need to be drinking sports drinks.  What is best to have?  A banana and water, an orange and water, or a salty snack like pretzels, water and piece of banana.  This will replace the sodium and potassium lost along with the fluids.   Another option is MotivePure, an electrolyte hydration product.  Unless you are out all day in hot sun, competing for hours in the heat (like summer travel lacrosse) or training for marathons, the best hydration is water!   More importantly nobody needs to be drinking sports drinks as a beverage on a regular basis.  Many have just as much sugar as drinking soda (37 grams of sugar as compared to a coke which has 39 grams).

So in summary, according to Kelly, planning & preparation are key, keep it simple, have variety and moderation while minimizing processed foods, sugars, and packaged foods.  Re-think those sport drinks and keep game day eating light and choose foods that are good sources of energy.

To learn more about Kelly and good nutrition visit her at http://www.kellyschoice.org/

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