Whether you have youth or teen athletes, finding pre game snacks and healthy snacks for athletes between games might feel challenging. Here are some of our top suggestions for snacks during sports tournaments, cross country meets and more.
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While my children are young currently, I can certainly remember some of my favorite pre game snacks when having multiple soccer and softball games on any given day.
Back then, I just ate what was available and drank tons of powerade. Snack ideas for sports teams weren’t what they are now.
Now, as a sports dietitian planning to encounter these situations in the future, I have a much better grasp on pregame snacks for athletes and snacks for athletes between games, between meets and matches.
The fact of the matter is: as an athlete, or the parent of an athlete, you are likely very busy. And pregame snacks may not be top of mind when you have children in sports.
Whether you’re in school, working full-time, running a business, are at home with your kids, or just dealing with all life throws your way, having some healthy snack options for busy times and on the go is key to fueling your body.
Part of this is knowing what to buy, which is why I created the athletes grocery list.
Ideally, going no more than 3-4 hours without eating something is key to avoiding low blood sugar and feeling hangry, especially if you will be competing or performing.
Hence, pregame athlete snacks are vital.
Having healthy snacks readily available at home, in the car, in your gym bag, etc. allows you to have something easy to grab when hunger strikes.
In this post, we also talk more about nutrition for teenage athletes in depth.
Best Pre game Snacks
Many pre game snacks for athletes also work as snacks for sports tournaments as well.
There are options for packaged snacks as well as homemade snack options.
If doing the latter, I recommend having these pantry staples for athletes on hand. There will be many similarities between pregame snacks for athletes and healthy snacks between games.
The main nutrition components we are focused on are:
- Carbohydrates – Carbohydrates are the main, and quickest, form of energy to support muscle contraction and activity. Having these before and even during long, endurance events, is helpful to maintain blood sugar, prevent low energy spikes, stave off hunger, and power your body.
- Little amounts of Protein – Small amounts of protein may work for some athletes as a pre game snack. High amounts of protein, though, may be too difficult to digest and may lead to gut issues for some.
- Hydration – Staying hydrated before, during and after activity is very important. Encourage children to drink during activity to minimize sweat-induced body-water deficits during exercise as long as pre-activity hydration status is good. For children 9 to 12 years old, this may mean 3-5 ounces every 20 minutes. For older athletes, up to 34-50 ounces per hour (9-13 ounces every 15 minutes) is appropriate.
- Easy to digest – Especially for athletes who will be competing at high intensities or who have sensitive stomachs, having easy-to-digest snacks (like fruit snacks) are great as pre game snacks and snacks between games.
Timing is so important.
Consider large gaps of time (3-4 hours between games) and how to handle pregame snacks or meals.
Or, for youth athletes who may not be competing until later in the day or late afternoon.
In these scenarios, relying on high carb lunches would make sense, and maybe even topping off glycogen stores with a carb-rich snack.
Healthy Snacks for Athletes Between Games
If there is a short amount of time between games, or a day of tournaments, what’s most important will be topping off glycogen stores with carbohydrates and re-hydrating.
For many athletes, liquid forms of carbohydrates, such as sports drink, fruit juice, smoothies, chocolate milk, etc. may be more appetizing.
Drinking something may be more well-tolerated than eating something, and will aid in hydration.
It’s also important to consider foods and products with higher sodium amounts to help with hydration, especially if the games are outside and it’s a hot and/or humid day.
Here are some great snack options to do that. I also love perusing Thrive Market for some fun, healthy snack ideas – they can cater to different diets, too, like gluten-free, vegan, dairy-free, etc.
- power balls
- fruit snacks or energy chews
- half of a PBJ sandwich
- ready made protein shake
- graham crackers with salted nut butter and honey
- peanut butter crackers
- rice krispie treats
- CLIF bars or mini CLIF bars, depending on the age of the athlete
- sports drink (don’t forget about homemade electrolyte drinks)
- fresh fruit, such as bananas, oranges, or grapes
- raisins or dried fruit
- greek yogurt with fruit/granola
- cereal bar or low fiber granola bar
- fig newtons
- crackers with some low fat cheese
- tortilla with peanut butter/honey
- bagel or toast with peanut butter
- tortilla chips with hummus
Depending on how much time athletes have between games and their gut sensitivity, some may also be able to handle larger quantities of food, and even incorporate more protein/fat into those meals.
Here are some options for those scenarios:
- deli sandwich on white bread
- string cheese with fruit
- greek yogurt with fruit or granola
- cottage cheese with pineapple
- trail mix
- hard boiled egg with crackers
- tortilla with peanut butter/honey
- thin bagel sandwich
You’ll also want to focus on electrolytes and hydration between games and matches to avoid dehydration, which can impact cognitive function, energy, and of course, performance.
These summer hydration tips are useful for many different athletes.
Shelf Stable Pre Game Snacks
Additionally, if you are looking for snack ideas that don’t require refrigeration, here are a few suggestions:
- Trail mix (store bought or DIY)
- Nuts (almonds, cashews, pistachios, etc.) or seeds (pumpkin, sunflower)
- Beef or turkey jerky
- fruit snacks
- Nut butter packets
- Ready made protein shakes
- Tuna packets
- Clif Builder bars
- Grab the Gold bars
- Nature Valley Protein bars
- KIND Protein bars
- UCAN energy bars
Remember, eating something is better than nothing when you feel hungry, especially if you’ll be competing back-to-back or for long periods of time.
The above items are just ideas to get you started.
Feel free to mix and match, experiment, and find items that work for you. Much will be dependent on your tolerance for certain foods, and even the weather.
Post Game Snacks for Athletes
Post game snacks are important and shouldn’t be overlooked.
This is really the time to incorporate more of that muscle-repleting and muscle-building protein, as well as carbohydrates for recovery and hydration.
For soccer snacks after games, this is where things like, chocolate milk, chicken sandwiches and full meals come into play.
Still thinking of the 4 food groups:
You can use any combination of these foods for some healthy, easy snack ideas.
Aim for at least 2 food groups in a snack for longer-lasting energy, or combine them all in a balanced meal for your athlete.
Here are some examples of the best post game snacks or meals.
- protein shake or protein bar (with at least 8 grams of protein) – such as Clif Builder bars, Grab the Gold bars, Nature Valley Protein bars, KIND Protein bars
- protein powder mixed into water, milk or a smoothie
- Sandwich on whole grain bread
- greek yogurt smoothie
- ready to drink protein shake
- eggs and toast
- string cheese and fruit
- CLIF nut butter bars
- jerky with dried fruit
- creamy coconut popsicles (high in potassium, carbs and Vitamin C!). Pair with some greek yogurt
And if you need to get in touch with hunger, or better understand your body’s needs when doing intensive activity, check out my ebook which is a guide with recipes, sports nutrition information, real-life scenarios and more.
Finally Understand How to Fuel For Running!
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