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What to Eat Before and After Exercise continued...

It’s best for children to decrease the amount of food they eat as exercise approaches. When a workout, game, or match is scheduled close to a regular meal, children may need to cut back on their usual intake, and have the rest of the meal afterward. Kids who haven’t eaten a meal for at least two hours before a workout, game, or match probably need to snack beforehand.

Clark recommends balanced snacks with 200 to 300 calories prior to exercise. Snacks should count toward good nutrition, so serve children foods that you would give them at other meals, such as half a sandwich and a glass of 100% orange juice, or trail mix made with nuts, whole grain cereal, and raisins. Account for the calories kids eat as snacks to prevent going overboard on energy intake.

Is there any truth to the idea that you should wait for 30 minutes after eating to swim? That depends on the child. Some kids can tolerate eating before swimming for recreation at a pool or beach. But, Dulan says, kids on swim teams may not want to eat heavy meals before practice or a meet, because it could lead to an upset stomach and affect their performance.

“After a workout or game, athletes should refuel within 30 minutes of exercise to replace losses and get ready for the next time they exercise, Dulan says. A balanced post-activity snack or meal with carbohydrate, protein, and some healthy fat, along with fluid to replace losses, is a wise choice for young athletes.

Fluid Needs During Physical Activity

Fluid helps to cool the body, which is especially important during exercise. In addition, every reaction in the body that allows kids to keep going takes place in a watery environment.

Children need at least this much fluid every day:

  • Ages one to eight: four to five eight-ounce cups
  • Ages nine to 18: eight to 11 eight-ounce cups

Active kids may need more fluid and should be encouraged to drink when they are thirsty. Dulan suggests drinking about eight to 10 ounces of water every 10 to 20 minutes during a game, and drinking more after exercise ends.

All beverages count toward satisfying fluid needs, including water, milk, and 100% fruit juice, but not all beverages are appropriate for kids.