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Nutrition: Eat well to play well

Nutrition: Eat well to play well

No matter how old you are, how you exert yourself and where you do it, the challenge is the same: what should you eat before, during and after your physical activity? Keep this checklist handy and you'll never "run on empty."

Before the activity

You should never play sports on an empty stomach; your body needs energy to perform. For the perfect meal or snack, stick to five basic rules:

  1. Eat foods low in fat. Avoid  fast food and soft drinks.
  2. Get a moderate intake of carbohydrates (bread, rice, pasta) and lean protein (chicken, fish, etc.)
  3. Limit your intake of fibre, such as whole grains or legumes, which can cause flatulence.
  4. Drink lots of water: About 16 oz., two hours before your activity.
  5. Stick to foods you know and digest well.

Children should have a full meal 3 to 4 hours before the activity, and a small meal or snack 1 to 2 hours before. Foods such as fruit smoothies, yogurt, and peanut butter and crackers are good choices. Of course, make sure they drink lots of water before, during and after their activity. Sports or energy drinks such as Gatorade, with or without electrolytes, should be consumed in limited amounts, if at all.

During the activity

It's all about water! If you're playing more intense sports such as hockey or indoor soccer, you'll need lots of water, but you shouldn't eat. For less strenuous activities, such as an outdoor hike, a light snack is a good fit. Consider granola bars, crackers or fruit.

After the activity

You should eat 30 minutes after your activity – muscles "repair" themselves during this period – to regain energy and reduce soreness. Pick a snack or meal that includes carbohydrates (fruit, cereal, bread, etc.) and protein (chicken nuggets, peanut butter, dairy products, etc.).

Don't have time to eat? Why not have a quick sandwich with our delicious shaved chicken or turkey slices? Experts also recommend chocolate milk, which provides protein, carbohydrates and vitamins.