Athletes & Nutrition

When you play a sport, you make sure you have the equipment you need, like a glove for baseball, shin guards for soccer, and a helmet for football.  Good nutrition is needed to help your game from the inside out.  Athletes need to choose healthy foods and drinks packed with nutrients to make sure you perform your best. 

All kids need to eat a variety of healthy foods, and athletes are no different.  All food groups are important for successful athletes.  Athletes need to try to eat fruits/vegetables in every color every day to get needed vitamins, and minerals.  Everybody needs foods that include:  carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

Carbohydrates: Need to be 50% of daily calories. Should be consumed at breakfast and lunch. They give energy for the whole day.

          -100% whole wheat toast
          -bagel thins
          -fresh fruits/berries, bananas, apples
          -low fat dairy, cheese, yogurt

Protein: Needs to be 30% of calories. Needs to be consumed at every meal. Helps preserve lean muscle.

          -skim chocolate milk
          -lunch meat
          -Greek yogurt

Fats:  Needs to be 20% of daily calorie intake. Should be healthy unsaturated fats like those in: fatty fish, olive oil, nuts and seeds.

Hydration:  All athletes need to consume 16-24 oz. of water within 2 hours of activity beginning.  Another 8-10 oz. need to be consumed 10-20 minutes prior to activity.  Also 6-12 oz. should be consumed every 30 minutes of activity.

5 Daily Food Groups

1) Fruits: Two cups of fruit is recommended everyday with the focus on whole fruits and select 100% fruit juices. One cup of fruit counts as any of the following: 1 large banana, 1/2 cup of raisins, or 1 cup 100% fruit juice.
2) Vegetables: Two and a half cups of a variety of vegetables are recommended daily and are great alone or added to casseroles, sandwiches, or wraps. One cup counts as 2 cups of raw spinach, 1 large bell pepper, or 1 cup of green peas.
3) Grains: Six ounces of whole grain bread, pasta, or tortillas are recommended. Always check the ingredients for the word “whole” or “whole grain.” One ounce counts as 1 slice of bread, 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal, or 1 small tortilla.
4) Dairy: Three cups of low-fat (1%) or fat-free (skim) dairy is recommended daily. One cup can come from 1 cup of milk, 1 cup of yogurt, or 2 ounces of cheese. 
5) Protein: Five and a half ounces of protein, such as beans, seafood, poultry and unsalted nuts and seeds are recommended on a daily basis. Try to select seafood at least twice a week and lean cuts of meat. One ounce of protein could be 1 ounce of fish, 1/4 cup of cooked beans, 1 tablespoon peanut butter, or 1 egg.

Time for Practice and Competition

When it’s time to practice and compete, you get energy from the food and water you’ve been eating all week. You still need to eat well that day though. Have a meal 2 to 4 hours before play time. The best pre-game meal includes carbohydrates and protein for energy but is low in fat and fiber, which can slow digestion. Also bring a snack for long practices, competitions, and all day events. Sandwich on whole wheat bread, fresh/dry fruit or even a handful of nuts are all good snacks. 

Also ALWAYS eat something after a workout! Try to eat and drink within 20 minutes of completing practicing. Great options are chocolate milk, peanut butter/banana, or Greek yogurt.

Quick tips to make nutrition easier.

          -Pre-slice and pre-portion fresh fruits and vegetables
          -Mix nuts with raisins/craisins in pre-portioned containers (good protein, low sugar)
          -Lean protein options
                    -lunch meat with apple/cheese
                    -hard-boiled eggs
                    -peanut butter with apples

Your local SSM Health Cardinal Glennon SportsCare Outreach Liaison is a great resource for treating athletes with baseball-related injuries. They will be able to treat and help facilitate a referral to a physician if necessary. You can reach your local representative at (314) 577-5640, or by visiting

Amanda Sullivan, MS, ATC, LAT
Outreach Liaison – Cardinal Glennon SportsCare
SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital


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