Eating healthfully helps an athlete reach maximum potential. Good stamina and energy are a result of eating healthy meals on a regular basis. The timing of meals and choice of food also can have an impact on physical performance.

Young football players during a game

One of the most important things for a young athlete to know is that the energy they use on game day actually comes from the food they have eaten over the past several days — so it is important to eat well every day, not just on game day. Eating well every day means eating a variety of foods from all of the food groups. To get a general recommendation for amounts needed from each group, go to

On game day, two to four hours before the game, have a lean protein and carbohydrate source along with a low-fiber fruit like juice, peaches, cherries or melon. High fiber could cause an upset stomach during the game. An example of a lean protein with carbohydrate meal could be a turkey sandwich or cereal with milk.

If the young athlete hasn’t eaten within four hours of game time, a pre-game snack two hours or so before the game is important. Some examples of a good snack include cereal with low-fat milk, yogurt or graham crackers with fruit and whole wheat crackers. All athletes have to decide what will settle best in their stomach. Stomach problems occur most often in running sports because of the up-and-down motion. Stomach problems also occur more often in young athletes and athletes who are tense. A snack less than one hour before the game is more likely to cause stomach upset. (There are instances, though, when eating during exercise can have a benefit.)

Games and hard practices can take a toll on the body. Recovery of the body is important for the next practice or game. A good breakfast is important every day, but it is especially important after a hard practice or a game. That breakfast will help the body to recover so it is ready for the next event.

A well-nourished athlete is an athlete that is able to perform at his or her absolute best. Keep healthy foods on hand so your young athlete is ready for a winning performance.