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Nutrition Myths: Do These Fueling Traditions Work?

If you're helping provide snacks for your athlete's team, or you're trying to give nutritional guidance to your child, you may be subscribing to some traditional sport snacks – think orange slices –  and fueling traditions – like pasta parties – that you heard over the years. While many of the fueling traditions that you've heard about are going to be okay for most athletes, there are some modern tweaks you can make to ensure that your athlete is properly fueled and getting the nutrition he or she needs.

Myth: Pre-Competition Pasta Parties

Why it works: For decades, marathoners have been all about carb-loading with pasta and pizza the night before a competition. This is done to fuel muscles by topping off glycogen stores in the body.

Why it doesn't: The idea of carb-loading is no longer entirely supported. Sure, eating a carb-dense meal the night before a hard or long effort is helpful, but your athlete shouldn't make a massive shift from his or her normal meal. And typically, carb loading is applicable to endurance sports, not to a baseball or volleyball game. A pasta meal can also lack protein, so your young athlete may end up hungry before his or her competition.

Make it current: Make sure your athlete's plate is balanced by adding some form of protein, like chicken, meatballs, or a vegetarian-friendly protein.

Myth: Orange slices on the sidelines

Why it works: Using whole foods for fuel is a great practice to teach young athletes, and orange slices provide a quick hit of simple sugar in the form of fructose. They can also be a refreshing snack in the middle of a hot practice.

Why it doesn't: Orange slices are great, but for harder or longer efforts, they may not be enough to refuel athletes all the way. You also may have some athletes who don't do well with a lot of fructose, the sugar found in oranges.

Make it current: Add chunks of banana to the mix, and for more intense activities and/or hot weather, consider adding a salty snack like pretzels for simple carbohydrates plus electrolytes.

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Nutrition, Athlete Health TrueSport