Learn nutrition tips for athletes

After School Special: Fueling for Practice and Game Day

Going back to school doesn’t have to mean going back to poor eating habits like skipping breakfast and chowing down on junk food after school. Eating a healthy, balanced diet every day is important, especially for student-athletes.

Here are three key tips from Jeff Lucchino, MS, RDN, CSSD, a sports dietitian at UPMC, for making good food choices to fuel your school day and after-school practices.

To make an appointment or learn more about our nutrition services, visit UPMCSportsMedicine.com.

Breakfast for Athletes

Breakfast is a critical meal. Because athletes typically sleep for six to 10 hours a night, they wake up needing quality fuel for their muscles.

Skipping breakfast deprives your muscles of fuel, which results in a drop in concentration, energy, and stamina as the day goes on. To avoid skipping breakfast, prep your breakfast the night before.

RELATED: Avocado Toast Recipe for a Healthy Breakfast

Breakfast Recommendations

  • Overnight oats: Combine 1/2 cup of quick oats, 6 ounces of Greek yogurt, and fruit in a glass jar, plastic container, or bowl. Refrigerate overnight.
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich: Use whole wheat bread, make this classic sandwich the night before, and store in the refrigerator. Add a single-serving fruit cup to complete the meal.
  • Protein Plate: Pack on the protein with apple slices with peanut butter, two to three hard-boiled eggs, and a cup of Greek yogurt.

Healthy Lunch Options

It’s ideal for any athlete to pack a healthy, balanced lunch each day. However, most school cafeterias offer enough choices to create a solid well-balanced lunch. Here are three food items to look for in your school cafeteria:

  • Sandwich station: Sandwiches might not be the ideal lunch, but they provide a well-rounded meal consisting of protein (turkey is a good source), whole grains (choose whole wheat bread), calcium (cheese), and micro-nutrients (lettuce, tomato).
  • Fruit stand: Fruit is a healthy side to balance out your meal. Many schools offer fresh fruit or single-serve fruit cups.
  • Milk: If you lack protein and vitamin D in your meal, low-fat milk is an excellent option.

After School or Pre-Practice Snacks

Many student-athletes go straight to practice at the end of their school day. Healthy snacking before practice gives your body the energy it needs to perform well.

Planning and packing a nutritious pre-practice snack should be part of your daily routine. Snacks should be nonperishable, appealing, and easy to carry. Here are five snack suggestions for athletes to enjoy before practice:

  1. Whole wheat crackers with peanut butter
  2. Trail mix containing nuts, seeds, and dried fruit
  3. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
  4. Granola bars
  5. Shelf-stable pouches of yogurt or applesauce

To make an appointment or learn more about our nutrition services, visit UPMCSportsMedicine.com.