Over the summer most young athletes tend to stray from their regular eating habits and eat more unhealthily. You'd think that If anyone can afford to eat junk food and large portions, it would be the young athletes, but with the cross country season approaching, it is important to have somewhat of an eating regime. Once your training gets more serious, you need to be fueling your body with the right foods to sustain energy for practice. If you have no idea about what to pack in your lunch bag for the school day, read some of my tips below to start snacking on the right foods.
Every lunch should start with a base. Whether it's a sandwich, a salad, or a wrap, your lunch should have a main course. I like to bring what I call a "compartmentalized salad". For example, I put chicken or whatever protein we had for dinner the night before, romaine lettuce, dressing, and veggies all into separate Tupperwares, and once I'm at lunch, I dump everything onto the lettuce and enjoy. Sandwiches and wraps are also good to eat at school lunch. Always go for whole wheat bread instead of white bread. Instead of just turkey and cheese, throw some lettuce and tomato slices on your sandwich to give it more flavor. The more you can fit on your sandwich, the better. Sandwiches and wraps are great because they have carbs and protein all in one, and you decide what goes on it.
In a perfect world your salad or sandwich would fill you up for the whole day. But it's not a perfect world, and when you're exerting energy for long periods of time in the Florida heat, you should be drinking fluids and snacking throughout the day. Your lunchbox should be filled with healthy snacks like the ones below:
-apples and peanut butter- the perfect combination of fruit and protein.
-Greek yogurt- lower fat, higher protein. Fills you up quicker than regular yogurt without making you feel bloated.
-cliff bars-my personal go to snack--whenever and wherever. Carbohydrates, protein, and sugar in a small bar. Great for tossing in your backpack.
-crackers, hummus and olives. A bigger snack that you could eat during your lunch period with your "main course" the crackers and hummus offer carbohydrates, while a few olives are the perfect amount of salt for a runner. Salt actually helps you hydrate quicker and replace lost electrolytes.
-dark chocolate covered nuts- eating nuts is already good for athletes because they contain healthy fat and protein. But the dark chocolate adds iron. There's 19% of your daily value of iron (which is vital to runners) in 1 oz of dark chocolate.
When you're eating throughout the day, it is also important to hydrate with the right fluids. You can never go wrong with water, but I feel like there's always been an unrealistic expectation of how much water a young athlete should drink during school hours. While it would be ideal to drink half of your body weight in ounces, it is hard to drink a lot at school when the lines for the restroom are long and you don't want to be late to class. I usually drink 3-4 16oz bottles during a school day along with an electrolyte packed beverage. Gatorade is popular for athletes, but not many people seem to notice how much sugar is in just one bottle. That's why I pack coconut waters. Coconut water is a natural source of electrolytes and all of the sugar is natural. If you don't like the taste, the chocolate coconut water is also delicious. Many people think that the only way to get electrolytes is through sports drinks but there are other healthier alternatives.
Younger runners tend to think that because they are so active, they can eat whatever they want and be fine, but that's not the case. Your intense training is more of a reason to nourish your body with the right nutrients to make you feel your absolute best at practice.