Feeling the burn. Fuel that fire!

Feeding Our Performance Athlete Children.

We all know how hard it can be to feed our kids.  Whether it's down to busy working parents, fussy eaters or fitting it around clubs and activities.  So it gets even harder when they are involved in elite sport!  I am writing this from the parents perspective and not as a chef or a nutritionist.  There will be some technical info involved and some chef tips, but really it's about a parent trying to do best by their child.

Making sure that you do your best as a parent to feed your kids well when just in the door from work can take a little bit or organising and planning to make sure that you have what you need in the fridge and cupboards.  As a chef I'm definately at an advantage to most as that is exactly what I do for a living.  But adding into the mix over 20 hours of training and coaching, 2 sports and 5 days during the week and all day Saturday just add to the challenge.  It's important that all children recieve the correct nutrition to enable them grow and learn at the correct rate.  But as I said add the added extra activities of 20 hours of training and you burn around 3-4000 calories as a child doing this.  So in reality you need to feed them an extra 2 days food just to break even!!  You can now start to see the huge challenge faced, as it's not just about redressing the balance, but it's also about fueling to help their conditioning, stamina and recovery.  Feeding the right things before training and after training. 

Protein after training can be really benificial to prevent protein breakdown and aids in recovery and repair of your muscles.  It's difficult to say how much would be needed as an adult male needs around 55g and female needs 25-30g. So calculations on this could be made.  The next thing to consider is how they consume this late in the evening after a long day at school and training.  We usually give George a sandwich and sometimes use "Hike" bars from Aldi, which have 10.5g of protein in them, they come in cocoa, banana & berry.  These are an easy fix and good filler for packed lunches, snacks on the run and after and during training.  But I think it is important to stress that a healthy balanced diet is what counts.

So, what are the types of food that I find work for George and help keep him fueled?  As stressed above, a healthy balanced diet is what is important and growing children need all of the food groups. Breakfast sets everyone up for the day and every day George has a boiled egg in the morning either with his breakfast or before he leaves the house to go to the childminder.  Eggs are a really important part to his diet and he probably over the course of the week he has a dozen, as they are also a part of his evening packed dinners that he eats in the car on the way to gym.  When you've just spent the day at school and a 40 minute journey to training is ahead of you then 3 1/2 hours of training that finishes at 2030 at night, it is really important to make sure that they have eaten enough to replenish all the energy that has been exerted at school and then to fuel them to get through training!!  After all that there is the recovery dinner on the way home before bed and the relentless regime of school and training starts for another day.  The picture to the top left shows a typical dinner for before training.  The salad box will always contain a boiled egg, salami stick, baby bel cheese and another protein source which could be 1/2 a chicken breast, ham, more cheese, bean salad etc.  Also there will be vegetable sticks (cucumber, peppers, celery, carrot or the likes) Salad of some description, leaves, naked slaw.  Finally there will be some form of carbohydrate.  Pasta, rice, cous-cous, potato salad.  A particular favourite is pasta with Srirancha mayonnaise.  By having all of these things in the dinner it covers all areas of their nutritional needs and will fuel them through the training.  Post training dinner will costitute a wrap or sandwich, fruit, water and a treat of crisps or chocolate.  I'm very lucky as George will eat pretty well anything.  It's also important to make sure they get their treats as they are kids after all.

Hydration is so important as well.  We find that water is the best form of this, kids all too often want the sugary fix of an Oaisis or Coke, but as parents we minimise these to meals out.  We use our nutri bullet a lot as well getting extra nutrition in the form of smoothies.  For example, spinach, banana, avocado, mango and wheatgrass.  Not what you would expect your normal 10 year old to drink, but they are sweet with the fruit sugars.  So be careful to comsume these with meals and not as stand alone drinks.  

As they say "Eat the rainbow". We drink it as well.

So really, it's not rocket science, there is a little bit of knowledge required to ensure that they are eating the correct food for them to be able to train, compete, recover and protect their young bodies.  

But really, the best advice I can give is that if you feed your children a balanced diet anyway and they compete in a lot of sport, then the key is volume and good quality volume at that.  After all a car won't work without fuel.  Our bodies are exactly the same.  They are just like engines that need oil, water, petrol.  These come in the form of all the nutrients that build their muscles, keep their joints supple, injury prevention and hydration. Just like a little living and breathing car.  You look after it and it will run for years, you neglect it and it will break down.