Student-athletes: did you know that the typical school day schedule—lunch between 11 a.m. and noon, followed by after-school practice—with dinner at 6 p.m. or later is way too long to go without eating. For active, teenage athletes, a gap of seven to eight hour between meals is unhealthy, especially when they are engaged in sports activity during part of the time.
It's important to bridge this gap with a healthy, nutritious snack, for several reasons:
- Refuel between meals
- "Re-start" your metabolism
- Boost your energy level
- Improve your mental focus
So what should be your game plan? Pack a snack to eat immediately after school! Though this requires a little foresight, planning and preparation, it's well worth the effort. (Forget to pack one? Find a healthy vending machine.) Also drink plenty of water before practices and games.
Some examples of nutritious, portable after-school snacks are:
- Nutrition bar: aim for low sugar with balanced carbs, protein and fat
- Peanut butter and jelly (or banana) on whole grain bread
- Greek yogurt and an apple
- Almond butter on whole-grain English muffin
- Turkey on whole grain bread
You don't have to eat a whole sandwich; half will suffice. The key is balance. Aim for a combination of "clean carbs," lean protein and healthy fat.
The purpose of the mid-afternoon snack is not to fill your stomach, but to help your body work more effectively and efficiently until you can refuel at dinnertime. Take care of your body and your body will take care of you.