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AYSO Region 419 - Dubuque, IA

Nutrition and Hydration

Player Nutrition and Hydration

NOTE: The content below is merely intended as an informational guideline. Please consult with your child's pediatrician or licensed nutritionist for the proper nutritional guidelines for your young athlete(s)!

Nutrition plays a key role in athletic performance. Failure to provide the calories and carbohydrates that young athletes need to fuel their bodies, the fluid to maintain hydration, and the vitamins and minerals to support metabolism and tissue growth and repair will result in poor performance and an increased risk for injury and/or illness. The following nutritional guidelines will ensure that every young athlete is fueled and hydrated for optimal health and performance.

Fueling the Young Athlete

Calories: Physically active children and adolescents have calorie requirements that are 12-15 percent greater than those of their sedentary peers. The precise calorie and carbohydrate requirements will vary depending on the type, intensity, frequency and duration of exercise in which they engage.

Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates provide the primary fuel for exercising muscles. It is essential that young athletes consume lots of complex carbohydrates (e.g. whole grains, fruits and vegetables) on a daily basis. In addition, it is important to ensure that young athletes get the proper amount of carbohydrates before, during and after exercise to support optimal health and performance.

Before Exercise: Make sure young athletes arrives to practice well-fed. They should eat a well-balanced meal that contains 75-200 grams of carbohydrates, 2-4 hours before the practice session or competition. A snack 30 minutes prior to exercise may also be beneficial, particularly if an athlete was unable to consume an appropriate meal 2-4 hours prior. The snack should contain approximately 20-50 grams of easily digested carbohydrates. Good snacks include Honey Energy Bars or Scorin' Honey Smores.

During Exercise: Consuming carbohydrates during exercise may be beneficial if:

  1. The exercise session is more than one hour
  2. The exercise session is very intense
  3. The athlete did not eat anything before exercise

After Exercise: Replacing carbohydrates that were used during exercise within 2 hours of completing the exercise session is essential for speeding recovery and preparing for the next athletic training period. The post-exercise meal should contain approximately 150-200 grams of carbohydrates.

Keeping Kids Hydrated

A number of factors place young athletes at an increased risk for dehydration and various heat illnesses. First, the higher energy expenditure of young athletes means that they produce more metabolic heat. In addition, young athletes don't sweat as efficiently as older athletes and thus cannot cool their bodies as effectively. Finally, young athletes are not as diligent about drinking fluids and their body core temperature during dehydration tends to increase faster. For these reasons it is essential that young athletes be encouraged to drink frequently even when they are not thirsty.

Research studies have shown that providing a cooled and flavored beverage produces greater fluid consumption among children and helps prevent dehydration. Parents should make sure that athletes arrive at practice sessions, games or competitions fully hydrated. Coaches should enforce drink pauses every 15-20 minutes even when athletes do not feel thirsty. Parents, coaches and the athletes themselves should watch for the warning signs of dehydration:

  • Thirst
  • Irritability
  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Cramps
  • Nausea
  • Decreased performance

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) provides the following guidelines for the maintenance of optimal hydration:

  • Before Exercise: 16 - 20 full ounces within the 2 hour period prior to exercise
  • During Exercise: 4 - 6 full ounces
  • Post Exercise: replace 24 full ounces for every one pound of body weight lost during exercise

Pre and Post-Exercise Snacks for Young Athletes

2-4 hours before exercise:

  1. sandwich with lean meat, piece of fruit
  2. pasta with tomato sauce
  3. cereal with milk
  4. bagel with peanut butter and honey, piece of fruit
  5. English muffin with honey and low-fat yogurt

30 minutes before exercise snacks:

  1. Honey Energy Bars
  2. Honey Applesauce Swirl: To make, stir 2 tsp. honey, or more to taste, into a single serving unsweetened applesauce snack pack
  3. Honey Pretzel Dipping Sauce: Whisk 1 tbs. of your favorite spicy mustard together with 1 cup honey. Makes enough dip for 8 servings of 20 small pretzel twists

Post-exercise meals:

  1. sandwich with 3 ounces lean meat, piece of fruit, pretzels, juice or milk
  2. pasta with tomato sauce, whole grain bread, skim milk
  3. cereal with milk, piece of fruit, toast with honey
  4. bagel with peanut butter and honey, piece of fruit, skim milk
  5. 3 ounces lean meat, potatoes, cooked veggies, skim milk

Food & Drink Ideas for the Team Cooler:

  1. bagels, Honey-Energy Bars, breakfast bars
  2. crackers and peanut butter
  3. pretzels, Chex mix
  4. fresh fruit (e.g., bananas, grapes, apples) or dried fruit
  5. yogurt

For a complete list of nutritional snacks for an active lifestyle, visit

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Dubuque AYSO Region 419

2615 Dodge Street, Ste 2
Dubuque, Iowa 52003

Email Us: [email protected]
Phone : 563-564-4718
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