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Student athletes: This is how you should be fueling

Last Modified: December 28, 2018

Nutrition & Recipes, Sports & Exercise

Samantha Kauffman, MA, RD, CD, sports dietitian, Parkview Sports Medicine, offers some helpful pointers for proper nutrition and peak performance.

When we have a full day, it can be difficult to balance practice, class and fueling our bodies to assure we are primed to perform to the best of our abilities. In order to make sure you are fully prepared for your day, some planning is required.

On the menu

An ideal meal will combine carbohydrates and proteins to provide the nutrients necessary for building muscle and maximizing recovery. The day should begin with breakfast to wake up your metabolism and fuel for the day. Suggestions for breakfast include:

  • Waffles or pancakes and scrambled eggs
  • Breakfast burrito or casserole
  • Egg sandwich
  • Whole grain bagel or toast, hard boiled eggs, string cheese and fruit
  • Yogurt with a banana and nuts
  • Overnight oatmeal
  • Cereal and milk topped with raisins and nuts
  • Peanut butter toast, apple and milk
  • Breakfast smoothie
  • Scrambled eggs and turkey bacon

Getting food in throughout the day is understandably difficult due to school restrictions on eating during classes. At lunch, choose healthy items when possible (fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and carbohydrates). Avoid fried foods or those covered in creams, sauces, gravies or butters, as well as sodas and large portions of juices. Instead, opt for baked, grilled or broiled items.

During the rest of your day, attempt to eat something small when you visit your locker, between classes and before your practice starts. Your goal should be to always have access to foods that are quick and easy to fuel before and after practice, as well as the rest of your day. The following list has some suggestions for portable foods that can be kept in your locker or bag and snacked on throughout the day:

  • Individual-size cereal (or pre-bagged cereal from home)
  • String cheese
  • Graham crackers and nut butters
  • Cereal bars/granola bars
  • Dried and fresh fruit
  • Applesauce (individual pouches)
  • Concentrated fruit juice (individual boxes)
  • Trail mix (nuts/seeds/dried fruits)
  • Fig bars
  • Popcorn (pre-made at home and bagged)
  • Fruit and nut sports bar
  • Bagel with nut butter

Recovery begins when you finish practice and continues throughout the night. Replenishing lost nutrients will aid you in getting the most out of your workouts and preparing for the coming day. If you will be eating shortly after finishing your last practice or game of the day, there is no need for a snack, but if it will be a few hours before your next meal it would be best to have a small snack afterward. To recover after a long day, the following are suggestions of meals and snacks that contain carbohydrates and protein and will fuel muscle growth and recovery:

  • Meals
    • Lean meat sandwich with side salad
    • Yogurt and fruit or cereal
    • Sushi with salmon, tuna or chicken filling
    • Grilled chicken sandwich
    • Chicken or steak fajitas
    • Stir-fry with lean beef and vegetables on rice
  • Snacks
    • Fruit smoothies with Greek yogurt and berries
    • Turkey sandwiches
    • Peanut butter and banana roll-ups
    • Granola bars, fruit and yogurt
    • Healthy muffin and a fruit
    • Energy bar with protein
    • Chocolate milk


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