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Fueling your practices through proper nutrition

Nutrition is a crucial aspect of an athlete's performance and well-being. Eating a well-balanced diet, staying hydrated, and consuming the right nutrients at the right times can significantly impact athletic performance. As a cheerleader, it is important to pay attention to your nutrition, both before and after practice.


When it comes to lunch options for athletes at school, packing a lunch from home can be a great way to ensure that they are fueling their body with nutritious foods that will keep them energized throughout the day. Some healthy lunch options could include a turkey and avocado wrap on whole-grain bread, a salad with mixed greens, grilled chicken, and a variety of vegetables, or a quinoa and vegetable stir-fry. To prepare for after-school practice, athletes could pack homemade trail mix with nuts and dried fruit, a hard-boiled egg, or a piece of fruit with almond butter to go along their choice of protien. It's important to avoid processed foods and instead opt for whole foods that provide a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats to help sustain energy and optimize performance during practice.


Before practice, it is crucial to consume foods that provide sustained energy to power through the physical activity. Opt for complex carbohydrates, such as whole-grain bread, pasta, or rice, paired with a lean source of protein, like chicken, turkey, or beans. This can help sustain energy levels and prevent fatigue during practice. Additionally, you may also want to eat a small snack, such as a piece of fruit or granola bar, 30 minutes to an hour before practice for an additional boost of energy. Try these options:


1. Whole-grain toast with almond butter and banana: Whole-grain toast provides healthy carbohydrates, and almond butter provides healthy fats and protein. Add a sliced banana for additional carbohydrates and natural sweetness. If you not a fan of nut butters, try guacamole. For a protein punch, add an egg.


2. Seasoned black beans and brown rice: Black beans and rice and excellent option to make ahead. You can prepare the recipe on the weekend and have enough for all your pre-practice snacks for the entire week.


3. Fruit and nut butter energy bites: Mix together rolled oats, nut butter, honey, and chopped nuts and dried fruit. Roll into bite-sized balls and refrigerate until firm. These provide a balanced combination of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats.

Recipe for Fruit and Nut Butter Energy Bites:

Ingredients:

- 1 cup rolled oats

- 1/2 cup nut butter (such as almond butter or peanut butter)

- 1/4 cup honey

- 1/2 cup chopped nuts (such as almonds or walnuts)

- 1/2 cup chopped dried fruit (such as raisins or dried cranberries)


Instructions:

1. In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well.

2. Roll the mixture into bite-sized balls.

3. Refrigerate the energy bites until firm.

4. Serve and enjoy before practice!


Post-practice nutrition is equally as important as pre-practice nutrition. After physical activity, your body needs to replenish nutrients lost during the workout, such as carbohydrates and protein. A recovery meal or snack should be consumed within 30 minutes to an hour after practice to help restore energy levels and promote muscle recovery. Opt for foods that are high in carbohydrates and protein, such as a smoothie made with fruit and Greek yogurt or a turkey sandwich on whole-grain bread. Here are three healthy options for post-practice nutrition:


1. Greek yogurt with berries and granola: Greek yogurt is an excellent source of protein, and berries provide antioxidants and natural sweetness. Add some granola for a crunchy texture and healthy carbohydrates.

2. Whole-grain turkey wrap with avocado and veggies: Use a whole-grain wrap to provide fiber and carbohydrates, and fill it with turkey for protein, avocado for healthy fats, and veggies for nutrients.


3. Chocolate milk smoothie: Chocolate milk is an excellent post-workout drink as it provides carbohydrates and protein. Blend together chocolate milk, a banana, and a handful of spinach for a nutrient-dense and delicious smoothie.



Recipe for Chocolate Milk Smoothie:

Ingredients:

- 1 cup chocolate milk

- 1 banana

- 1 handful of spinach

- 1-2 ice cubes


Combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth.


In addition to proper nutrition, staying hydrated is also crucial for athletic performance. During practice, it is important to drink fluids regularly to replace fluids lost through sweat. Water is the best option for hydration, but sports drinks can also be useful in replenishing lost electrolytes during prolonged, high-intensity exercise. It is recommended that athletes drink at least 16 ounces of fluid before practice and 8 ounces every 15-20 minutes during practice. Yes, you read that right! So bringing a 16.9oz bottled water just doesn't cut it. You should be consuming 2-3 of those throughout the practice.


After practice, it is important to continue hydrating to replace fluids lost during exercise. Water is still the best option, but milk, limited sports drinks, and limited fruit juices can also provide hydration and nutrients. A good rule of thumb is to consume enough fluid to replace 150% of the weight lost during exercise.


In conclusion, proper nutrition and hydration are crucial for an athlete's performance and well-being. Cheerleaders should focus on consuming complex carbohydrates and lean proteins before practice, and consuming carbohydrates and protein after practice to help restore energy levels and promote muscle recovery. Drinking fluids regularly during practice, such as water or sports drinks, can also help maintain hydration levels. By paying attention to their nutrition and hydration, cheerleaders can perform their best and support their overall health and well-being.


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