Back to School Back to Sports: Fuel for Young Athletes

The beginning of a new school year brings a new round of team sports, and where there is a team sport there are snacks to be packed. Whether your child plays quarterback on the football field, or runs competitively for cross country, after a hard game or workout it’s important that young athletes replace lost fluids and energy stores. Use our game-time tips to help your young athlete perform at his or her best.

It’s all about Hydration

Staying properly hydrated is critical, and should be first on your game plan when it comes to kids and sporting events. To avoid early fatigue, electrolyte imbalance, and severe dehydration, frequent fluid breaks during sports activities are a must. Teen athletes should drink 8 ounces of fluid every 20 minutes during intense activity; younger children should aim for 3-5 ounces of fluids every 15-20 minutes (1,2). Keep in mind that for most sporting events and practices, plfruitain water is best. Sports drinks should be reserved for events that are both prolonged (at least one hour) and involve vigorous physical activity, where the extra carbohydrates, minerals, and electrolytes will be most beneficial (1,3).

Snack for Success

Snacks – both before and after the workout or game – are important for optimal performance. Think of snacks as a mini-meal that help provide nutrients children need to focus, play well and re-energize. The goal is to fuel them up, not bog them down with heavy or sugary items. Try to combine foods that are full of vitamins and minerals and contain carbohydrate, protein, and low fat for optimal nutrition. Here are some fun, easy-to-pack favorites:

  • String cheese and whole grain pretzels
  • A half peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole grain bread
  • Orange slices with string cheese
  • Frozen grapes with low-fat yogurt
  • Sliced turkey with whole grain crackers
  • Homemade trail mix with nuts, dried fruit, and whole grain cereal
  • A small, homemade bean and cheese quesadilla

When planning snacks for practice or games, keep the time of day in mind. Early morning events may require a little more fuel to break a young athlete’s overnight fast; after school practice may call for quick energy to fuel up, but not too much to spoil dinner later on(4). With a little planning, it can be easy to keep your young athlete fueled up for peak performance.


1. Nutrition and Supplement Use. American Academy of Pediatrics website. tion-and-Supplement-Use.aspx. Updated July 9, 2014. Accessed May 4, 2015.

2. Hydration for the Child Athlete. Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition website. fact-sheets/. Accessed May 4, 2015.

3. Kids Should Not Consume Energy Drinks, and Rarely Need Sports Drinks, Says AAP. American Academy of Pediatrics website. en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/Kids-Should-Not-Consume- Energy-Drinks,-and-Rarely-Need-Sports-Drinks,-Says-AAP.aspx. Published May 30, 2011. Accessed May 4, 2015.

4. Rosenbloom, C. Fueling Snacks to Take to Your Child’s Game. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics webpage. sports-and-performance/fueling-your-workout/fueling-snacks-to-take-to-your-childs-game. Published January 30, 2014. Accessed May 4, 2015.

Balance LivesTM offers a nutrition shelf-edge labeling program, which makes it easy for you to quickly identify healthy choices regardless of what diet you follow. When you’re in our store, be on the lookout for our nutrition tags!

Disclaimer: This information is intended for educational purposes only and does not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider. For individual recommendations, please consult with a doctor or registered dietitian.