What Should My Athlete Eat?

Pamela Schoenfeld
MS RD LDN
919-800-0343

We asked Nutritionist, Pamela Schoenfeld, MS RD LDN, what her thoughts were on the best thing to eat and when. She says:

"A combination of protein and carbohydrate containing foods is ideal, eaten 30 to 60 minutes before and then within 30 minutes after practice. Foods higher in fats, like peanut butter or cheese, are fine after practice, but should be limited before practice as they can slow digestion down and make the athlete feel uncomfortable.

Before practice, 30 to 50 grams of carbohydrates with 10 grams of protein is recommended.  A source of salt and potassium is also important.

I recommend a powdered whey shake (if milk is not available due to refrigeration) with a large banana and 100 calories of salty pretzels or low-fat crackers, for example.  The whey protein can be mixed with water right before drinking; a brand I like is Designs for Health Whey Cool in the chocolate flavor. This can be purchased from Amazon, or I offer at a 20% discount to my clients.

After practice, a slightly larger snack of 50 to 100 grams of carbohydrates with 20 to 30 grams of protein is recommended, unless a meal will be consumed within 1 hour. Peanut or almond butter, 2 tablespoons, on salted crackers, with a high protein Greek yogurt or a glass of milk, and another piece of fruit is a great choice. Natural cheese on crackers, 3 ounces or 3 slices, is also a good choice, along with some fruit juice.

Note that whey protein is a quick acting protein, whereas cheese, which is mostly casein, is a longer acting protein and supplies both fat and salt. Yogurt (and milk) contains both whey and casein proteins so is ideal for after practice or a game.  Some other ideas are beef or turkey jerkeys, with dried fruit and a bottled whey beverage whey the snack needs to be super quick and portable."

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