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What Are Macronutrients and How Do They Help Performance?

By Seanna Thomas, Nutrition Consultant, 12/19/23, 12:45PM EST

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The carbs, proteins and fats to target in a pre-game meal

As a young athlete, it can be hard to know which foods are the best for performance.

As a parent, it can be even harder to get our young athletes to simply eat!

Knowing what foods are best and when to eat them can actually make fuelling for performance easier on everyone. If you have a plan in place, and everyone is on board-food as fuel can be simple.

So… what macronutrients are best for performance?

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are an essential form of energy for young athletes. We often think of carbs as pasta, rice, potatoes, and bread, abut don’t forget the carbs in fruit, vegetables, grains, and more.

Carbohydrates are easily recognized and digested by our body so they are perfect as quick energy before activity.

Think about serving carbohydrates before a game, or having a piece of fruit while warming up.

Easily digestible carbs are perfect when you are strapped for time.

Protein

We always talk about protein being important for young athletes, and it is. Protein is utilized by the body for muscle repair, muscle recovery, and muscle growth.

Protein is also used for many other processes in the body so it is essential!

The tricky thing about protein is the closer you get to activity, the less time you have to digest, and the last thing you want is to feel a brick in your belly. So it’s very important to allow time for your body to digest protein. 

After activity is a great time to have protein to help nourish those muscles!

Fats

Our young athletes need fat for energy, to be satiated, and to help fight inflammation. Not to mention, fat is great brain food and helps with cognitive function.

Just be aware that fat also takes longer for our bodies to digest so give yourself time.

Avocado or eggs in the morning, nuts and seeds throughout the day, using olive oil, or having fish for dinner are excellent options. Try to incorporate fat into your daily life. 

Fats in trail mix after practice or a breakfast burrito with eggs and avocado on the way to the rink are great choices.

 

Ultimately, your young athlete will know the foods that light them up on the ice and make them feel good afterwards. But knowing the types of foods that will help their bodies can be a guide to helping you know you’re making the best decisions. Start paying attention to how the food you eat makes you feel.

And as always, remember to hydrate!

VEGGIE MAC AND CHEESE

If you’re looking for a pre-game meal that is full of delicious carbohydrates (which will provide tons of energy!), I’ve got a veggie Mac and Cheese that everyone in your family will enjoy! The extra nutrients from the vegetables are sure to fire up your player for a game!

The sauce is made with roasted vegetables (don’t worry-it still contains cheese), and comes together in a blender. Add to your favourite pasta and you’re good to go!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup cauliflower, chopped
  • 1 cup butternut squash, chopped
  • 1 box noodles of choice
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup milk (or plain alternative)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup greek yogurt
  • 1-2 cups sharp cheddar cheese

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400.
  • Wash and chop carrots and cauliflower. Peel and chop butternut squash and add to a baking sheet. Roast for 30-40 minutes.
  • Cook pasta according to package instructions.
  • Once vegetables are roasted, add to a blender with garlic powder, milk, salt, and yogurt. Blend until smooth, adding more milk if necessary.
  • Add cheese and blend again. Don’t worry if it is lumpy. The cheese will continue to melt once added to the pasta.
  • Drain pasta and add back to pot. Pour sauce on top and mix. Enjoy!
  • You will most likely have some cheese sauce leftover. You can keep it in the fridge if you’ll use it in a few days or freeze it for another time.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Seanna Thomas is a Nutrition Consultant, Mom to 3 active kids, and founder of Hockey Snacks Inc., where she provides nutrition information for young athletes, sports teams, families, and organizations. Seanna regularly appears on CP24 Breakfast, & is a contributor to Triathlon Magazine Canada, as well as multiple other publications. Seanna focuses on whole foods with a spotlight on creating realistic healthy habits. She can be found on Facebook, Instagram, and seannathomas.com. In her downtime, she enjoys being outdoors with her family and relaxing at home with her husband and a well-deserved glass of wine (and maybe watching a hockey game).


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