Children’s Hospital Colorado sports dietitian Amanda Turner, RDN, CSSD instructs young athletes how to pack easy lunches that can increase high performance and help them make it through the day. This is because athletes often have a higher metabolism, and they require the right amount of the right kind of food. We list several of Amanda’s lunch ideas beneath; most should take you less than 15 minutes to make.

Performance nutrition tips for athletes

Before you begin to pack your lunch, it’s necessary to comprehend the different elements of a high-performance lunch, why certain foods matter and how much of them you should eat.

  1. Pick a protein, carbohydrate and fat                           These three main nutrients fuel your body during hard work.

Protein: Aids with muscle recovery and creating other building blocks.

Meat and poultry; fish; eggs; low-fat dairy products  (cheese, yogurt, milk); soy (edamame, tofu, tempeh); beans and legumes

Carbohydrates: Helps your muscles to provide high-intensity energy stores.

Grains (bread, pasta, muffins, crackers, rice); potatoes; fruit; beans and legumes; sweets and desserts.

Fat: Keeps all your cells intact, aids in regulating your body temperature and can keep inflammation away.

Nuts and butters; avocado; oils; seeds (like sunflower seeds); spreads (mayo, butter, cream cheese); high-fat dairy products

  1. Add some color

Eating the colors of the rainbow is one of the best ways to get nutritional balance in your diet. The bigger the variety of colors from fruits and veggies, the better your nutrition will be. And when your nutrition is great, so is your speed, strength and power. If you want to eat to perform, it’s good to include a fruit and veggie at lunch every day.

  1. Fuel with fluids

Water is a very important nutrient. It makes up 60 to 70% of our total body weight. That means if you weigh 100 pounds, 60 to 70 pounds of that is water. We lose water from our bodies when we sweat, use the bathroom and even just by breathing throughout the day. It’s essential to replenish your fluids to be your best in your sport. Water, milk or 100% juice are the best choices for lunch. Soda and energy drinks don’t hydrate you well, and you should really only use sports drinks for training and competition — times when your exercise or activity will be actually intense, lasting more than one hour.

  1. Adjust portions to your training

Throughout the year, the amount you practice probably changes. That means your food intake should actually change with it. When you are training more, let’s say two hours a day during basketball season, you need more food than you do in the off-season when you’re likely spending more time on the couch. Check out our Athlete Eats info below to see how your portions might change based on your training load.

  1. Listen to your body

Lastly, know that your body knows best. What should you do if you’ve been packing a lunch based on the Moderate Training Plate but you’re still hungry after lunch? I know you must have guessed it right. Pack more food. If your body tells you it’s hungry, feed it. If it tells you it’s full, stop and save the rest for later. Your body is the ultimate expert in how much food you need daily.


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