Sports Nutrition for Kids

Whether your kids are competitive athletes, or weekend warriors, it’s good to be at the top of their game, have good energy,  and feel healthy enough to participate in sports!  On Saturday our family did a “for fun” race. We participated in an event called, The Dirty Dash- where we all ran (and fell) through an obstacle course full of  mud!   It was crazy fun, and we’ll definitely do it again next year!

While we didn’t need any special training or nutrition to participate in the Dirty Dash, many kids these days are involved in competitive activities where they need to be at the top of their game!  A while back I got an email from Amy, who sent me this question:

My boys are 9 and 12 and I am interested in sports nutrition for kids. Do you know of any good sources? These would need to fit along with our clean eating, no HFCS, etc.
Specifically, my question boils down to this. Right now, my 12 year old is starting track. He has track right after school, from 2:50-4:30. After a long day of school, and lunch around noon, I really want to send him with a snack for before practice. What are a few things that he can take for a quick snack before practice that will satisfy his hunger and energy requirements?

Energy for muscle activity comes from both glucose and fat. We are constantly using our fat stores for energy at rest.  However, glucose is the main source of energy for high intense activities. The storage form of glucose (glycogen) runs out quickly and needs to continually be replaced.  To increase glycogen stores just before intense activities, we look to carbohydrates.    Carbohydrates stay in the stomach a shorter time than protein or fat and are easily digested.  The glucose then enters the bloodstream quickly for energy to exercise.

Eating more carbohydrates applies to just prior to, or during activity.  However, studies have shown that athletes who train while consuming higher fat diets (nuts, seeds, avocados, etc.)  may increase their body’s ability to use fatty acids for energy formation during prolonged exercise.  So, bottom line…. The rest of your child’s diet needs to be balanced!  Carbohydrates do not provide a sufficient amount of zinc, iron, vitamin B 12 or other nutrients.   Balance is necessary to build up the storage of fat for energy, as well as provide adequate protein for muscles building and repair, and the carbs for quick use.

Here are some ideas from my nutrition textbook under “Nutrition Now” as well as “Sports Nutrition for Young Athletes” by Anita Bean


Meal #1

  • Bananas
  • Cold Cereal
  • Milk
  • Toast with Jam
  • Water

Meal #2

  • Pasta with tomato sauce
  • Italian bread
  • Apple Juice
  • Water

Meal #3

  • Pineapple juice
  • pancakes
  • honey
  • milk
  • water

Meal #4

  • Oatmeal with fruit, honey, and nuts

Meal #5

  • Scrambled eggs
  • Toast
  • Fruit

Meal #6

  • Toast with honey,
  • OJ and Yogurt smoothie

During Events (and when you have your snack turn!)

  • Apples
  • Grapes- cut into vines of 1-3 inches)
  • crackers (whole wheat crackers with minimal ingredients)
  • fruit juice (100% fruit of course)
  • Fruit leather (made from 100% fruit)
  • Banana
  • applesauce (single serving works great)
  • oranges (sliced into wedges or circles)
  • Pears (sliced)
  • whole wheat mini bagels (bring some fruit spread for the top)
  • corn bread
  • Bread or mini muffins
  • canned fruit (little fruit cups of peaches or pears)
  • Granola Bars (with under 8 grams of sugar)

And of course, Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!


Post training meals should include carbs to replenish depleted glycogen and protein to build and repair muscles.  A little sodium is also good to replace sodium lost through sweating.

  • Flavored milks (Studies have shown that low-fat milk is better than sports drink at promoting muscle recovery)


  • Fruit and yogurt


  • Apples and cheese


So Amy, I wouldn’t hesitate to send a bag of cereal, to school with your kids to eat afterward, or even a few pancakes. The pancakes wouldn’t be so bad even eaten dry and cold!

Nutrition for Kids
Nutrition for Kids


Leave A Comment