In my last article I touched on what types of food children can eat that will help them improve their performance on the field of play and in the game of life.  If you missed these articles here is the link:

This week I am going to touch on when to eat certain foods to maximize their impact on performance.

There are three areas that require distinction:  Before, during and after exercise.

Please understand that energy and stamina don’t come from sugar. Taking in simple carbs like sugar, corn syrup, pasta, or bread before an event will tend to cause a quick spike in your blood sugar followed by a corresponding fall, making you feel more exhausted than before. More than anything, simple carbs and excess complex carbs (whole grains, starches) will make you sluggish and hamper your performance.

If you want to create energy naturally, here are a few simple rules to follow:

  • Just before a game or hard workout, eat a little bit of fruit, such as an apple, plum, pear, citrus fruit (not juice) or berries. They're great right before a game or workout, as they give you a small spike without the massive plummet.  The closer you get to game time the less you should eat.  If you wait just before the game to get a quick boost of energy it’s probably to late.  Part of your game day ritual should include a nutrition plan.
  • Two to three hours before a game or hard workout, complex carbs, fats and a small amount of protein will do the trick. Sweet potatoes, brown rice, olive oil, almond butter, flax oil, walnuts, almonds and eggs are all easy to digest and can give you more sustained energy for the day. 
  • Game day or exam day is not the best time to try guacamole for the first time.  Eating a variety of foods and trying new ones is a wonderful thing to do but not just before an important event.  Stick with foods you know you are comfortable with and have no trouble digesting.
  • During exercise you should only drink water.  Gatorade and other sports drinks aren’t necessary unless the weather conditions are extreme and you are sweating like a hog in the Texas heat (not sure if pigs actually sweat but you get the idea).  If the game or workout lasts more than an hour and the play is very intense then Gatorade is okay.   You might be all sweaty after a game on X-Box but that’s not time for a sports drink either.
  • Right after exercise there exists a prime "window of opportunity" in which your muscle is most ready to accept protein and nutrients towards recovery and growth.  To take advantage of this opportunity you must feed your muscle with fast assimilating protein such as low-fat chocolate milk or quality whey.  Slow assimilating proteins won't do the job. Meat, poultry and fish are too slow assimilating and therefore don't fit immediate post exercise recovery.
  • Keep in mind that after a workout, your stomach and digestive tract do not function as efficiently. The reason is because your digestive tract is incredibly vascular and uses significant amounts of blood to do its job. The problem arises because much of your blood is in the muscles that you just finished training. So an adequate amount of blood is not available to digest food eaten after a workout and that's why whey is the best choice.

The post exercise recovery meal is important to maximize the fruits of the labor. It's needed to stop the break down in your muscle and shift the process towards repair and growth.  So ideally you should eat within 30 minutes after your workout. That’s what the latest sports nutrition science recommends.  However, your family lives in real time and these strategies might not be applicable on a regular basis.  Do the best you can and try to make it part of the routine.  A good strategy is to put a scoop of grass-fed whey in a shaker bottle and take it to your game/work-out.  Pour in cold water or Gatorade and you have a simple recovery meal.  I would advise vanilla whey if you mix it with Gatorade however.  Lemon-lime with chocolate sounds pretty gross to me!

To really maximize performance you should try to eat a whole foods meal within 2 hours after the workout/game.  This meal should consist of protein (chicken, fish, grass-fed beef, etc.) and a huge serving of vegetables to resupply your body with vitamins and minerals.

Active Kid Recipe:

Protein Power Oatmeal

I get a lot of rave reviews for this one.  Just before bed get a glass bowl (preferably with a lid) and fill it with anywhere from half to three-quarters cup whole oats and cover it with hot water.  Put the lid on and let it soak overnight.  In the morning scoop the oats into a saucepan and crack one whole egg and beat it then add it to oats.  Add a serving (will say on label) of pure stevia (sweetener) and mix well.  Add a chunk of dark chocolate and cook until melted and egg is cooked about 5 minutes on med-low heat.  Just before serving mix a tablespoon of all-natural peanut or almond butter into the warm oatmeal.  After well blended serve.  Add stevia to taste if needed.  This is a complete meal with hi-fiber whole grains, complete protein and healthy fats if the eggs are grass-fed and pastured and dark chocolate is full of antioxidants.  Most importantly it tastes great!