Bridging the Nutrition Gap Between Lunch and Dinner for the Scholastic Athlete

13 Aug

As middle school and high school student-athletes, my kids usually ate lunch (on school days) between 11 AM and 12 Noon.  If they practiced (or played) after school, that meant they didn’t eat dinner until 6 PM, or later.  Seven or eight hours is way too long for an active, teenage student-athlete to go between meals, especially when they have sport activity in between.  It’s important to bridge this gap with a healthy, nutritious snack, for several reasons:

  • Refuel between meals
  • “Re-start” your metabolism
  • Boost your energy level
  • Improve your mental focus

I encourage scholastic athletes to pack a snack to eat immediately after school.  It’s also a good idea to drink plenty of water before practices or games.  Some examples of nutritious, portable after-school snacks are:

  • Nutrition bar (low sugar; balanced carbs, protein, and fat)
  • Peanut butter and jelly (or banana) on whole grain bread
  • Apple and (Greek) yogurt
  • Almond butter on whole grain English muffin
  • Turkey on whole grain bread

You don’t have to eat a whole sandwich (half will suffice), and balance is the key.  Aim for a combination of “clean” carbs, lean protein, and healthy fat.  The purpose of this snack, as listed above, is not to fill your stomach.  It’s to help your body work more effectively and efficiently during your sport activity, until you can refuel again at dinner time.  Take care of your body and your body will take care of you.

Your thoughts?

4 Responses to “Bridging the Nutrition Gap Between Lunch and Dinner for the Scholastic Athlete”

  1. Silvana August 13, 2012 at 9:32 PM #

    I agree with your ideas and as a parent am always trying to push the water and healthy snacks but my concerns over the past few years have been during the school year. I send the kids off to school at 7:20am and both are not eating lunch until 12:15pm and 12:30pm. To me that gap is huge to not have eaten or drank any liquids for that long of a period. The school does not allow the upper grades to bring a snack or water bottle so I tend to worry that the headaches they sometimes get are the cause of this..and then the over eating after school is because their bodies are starving…any thoughts??? Thank You

    • Brian Lebo August 13, 2012 at 11:00 PM #

      Thank you for your comment, Silvana. Late lunch period presents the same problem, just earlier in the day. These kids are going 5-6 hours between breakfast and lunch, which is also too long. The liquids issue is easy enough – water fountains. As a parent, I would encourage you to approach the administration and share your concerns. A water bottle and small snack, kept in a student’s locker, is not an unreasonable request. I would be curious to know the rationale for denying a mid-morning snack. Sometimes it helps to be the “squeaky wheel” and make a little noise.

  2. Reginald Esponda October 29, 2012 at 1:41 PM #

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  1. Nutrition 101 for Student-Athletes | Athletic Performance Training Center - August 29, 2014

    […] After-school, between lunch and dinner.  Many student-athletes eat lunch between 11 AM and 12 Noon.  Because of after-school practices, games, etc., they may not have the opportunity to eat dinner until 6 PM or later — way too long.  An after-school snack (or small meal) can provide the body with the energy it needs for rigorous, high-intensity after-school activity, while bridging the nutrition gap between lunch and dinner.  (Please refer to my blog post, Bridging the Nutrition Gap Between Lunch and Dinner for the Scholastic Athlete) […]

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