In response to a recent article I read, “Why I hate Half-time Snacks at Kids’ Soccer Games” I decided to write in more detail (vs. a 140 character Tweet) why I couldn’t disagree more. I understand that his tone is a bit sarcastic and at times, he is attempting to incorporate a bit of humor, but I am not laughing. Since the 1970′s when he claims that kids played sports without snacks and that everyone is skinny, there has been the birth of exercise and nutrition science, and studies in the past 40+ years have shown the importance of refueling during extended periods of physical exertion; regardless of age. My reasons for disagreeing with the author are based on science, not of observational fluff that “back then, we ran for hours and were all skinny.” The obesity epidemic in this country is complex, and no one has found the solution. Eating a healthy snack such as oranges or veggies with peanut butter is not going to make our kids fat, especially if they have been exercising at a high intensity. What can make our kids fat is highly-processed foods and allowing them to sit for hours in front of a TV or computer.
The reasons for a healthy snack (operative word: healthy) are as follows:
- A snack replaces energy stores: mainly glycogen stores, which are stored within the muscle and liver. It is recommended that one starts to refuel within 30 minutes of extended physical activity (30+ minutes)
- A snack (including water and/or sports drinks with electrolytes) can aid in injury prevention. A balance between a healthy glucose blood level, calcium, sodium and potassium can aid in prevention of light-headedness and muscle cramping which could lead to more serious injuries on the field.
- A snack can lead to improved performance. Have you ever tried to drive a car with an empty tank of gas, as its chugging, fighting to move the next 5-10 feet? Exactly. Our bodies cannot perform at its optimal level on a “low or empty tank of gas.” It is important we refuel before we hit go to empty.
I understand the obligation of snacks can be at times, a pain. So keep it simple: examples of healthy snacks are: oranges, apples, pre-cut veggies with a jar of peanut butter, and trail mix with dried fruit and nuts.
Lastly, we should be proud that youth soccer is the fastest going youth sport in our country. As parents, you have the responsibility to teach your kids healthy habits, and there is no better way than youth sports!
By: Jen Lesea-Ames
Jen is the owner of Fitwise Training, Inc. DBA Youth Soccer Training. She has a Master’s Degree in Kinesiology from the University of Colorado-Boulder and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. She has over 16 years of experience training and coaching people of all ages and abilities.