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Once the winter months hit and cold and flu season are at their peak, how to you keep your athletes healthy and ready to play? The truth is no level of vigilance and preparation will guarantee your child will not get sick two days before the championship game, however, there are things you can be doing and foods your athlete can be eating that will definitely tip the scales of health in their favor!

1. Sleep – ensure that your athlete is getting the proper amount of sleep for their age. The body needs that down time for repairs and re-energizing.

2. Fluids – make sure your athlete gets plenty of water, milk and vitamin rich fruit juices in their daily diet. Steer clear of sodas and other drinks high in sugar and artificial sweeteners.

3. Fruits & VeggiesFresh fruits and vegetables are the absolute best source of vitamins and minerals that you can give your kids. Be creative or be fun, but get them in their daily diets. The best vitamin sources are strawberries, papaya, cantaloupe, blueberries, tomato, broccoli, spinach, sweet potatoes, apricots, carrots, mango and bananas. Check out USA Swimming’s list of the top 5 foods to build immunity for more ideas.

4. Reduce Sugar and SweetenersSugar suppresses the immune system. The fewer sugary foods you can give your athletes, the better. Sugar is the main ingredient in so many convenient processed foods. Many of the artificial sweeteners on the market today are not much better, really. Aspartame can cause headaches and more serious reactions in some. Splenda is known for causing stomach and intestinal issues. Our family doctor recommends that parents give their children Splenda when they are constipated (we have tested this one and it works).

5. Yogurt – The enzymes in yogurt are great for restoring balance in your child’s digestive tract. Look for yogurt with active cultures as they are the ones that help restore the good bacteria in your system (especially after being on antibiotics). Yogurt is also high in calcium – good for strong bones. One note – steer clear of the candy colored, high sugar yogurts.

6. Good fats – Your body needs a certain amount of good fats in order to stay healthy. Many types of fish, like salmon, are naturally high in Omega 3 Fatty acids. Another good source of Omega 3 is flax seed oil. You can easily add flax seed to oatmeal and other hot cereals and your kids will never know they are there. We use Coromega Omega-3 Supplement in the Orange Flavor. They come as little squeeze packets my kids love and they taste like orange cream with no oily residue either. I blend them into smoothies in the morning for the kids and they love it.

7. Vitamins – Vitamins B and C are two of the most important when it comes to boosting the immune system. Our pediatrician recommends a good multivitamin just to fill in the gaps in your athlete’s diet. Vitamin C is available in many forms from fresh fruits, fortified in many foods, and vitamins. Personally I love Emergen-C. It is a powder that you add to water to make a fizzy, fruit flavored drink high in vitamin C and other vitamins and minerals.

8. Supplements – Sometimes athlete’s just need a little extra boost. Low doses of zinc have been shown to boost the immune system and reduce the severity and duration of colds and other viruses. Probiotics are important for restoring balance to the intestinal tract – especially following antibiotic use. Many of the vitamin/supplement companies are now making children’s formulas of their products (never give children the standard adult dose of a supplement and always check with your doctor first).

Building your athlete’s immune system all year long will help keep them on the playing field, in the pool, on the court or in the gym when everyone around you is looking for the box of tissues!

Categories : Nutrition
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Teaching Athletes About Hydration

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Are You Hydrated? printable poster

Click on the image to download the Are You Hydrated poster as a PDF file.

Let’s face it, as parents and coaches we can not be with our athletes 24/7, and as they get into Middle School and High School, our influence becomes less and less. As a result, I am a huge advocate for educating athletes from a young age to take an active role in their training and game day preparation (yes, I know they don’t always head our advice, but we have to try!). One area we can easily educate our athletes on is hydration.

Why Do You Need To Be Hydrated?

Put bluntly, athletes who are not properly hydrated before practice or competition are not going to perform as well as they could be.  In other words, what you want to get out of your body, you have to put into it!  Your body needs a combination of fluids, carbohydrates and electrolytes in order to perform at its best. In a recent Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI) study, they found that 70% of high school athletes show up to practice dehydrated. And the consequence of dehydration is lower performance.

How Can You Tell If You Are Properly Hydrated?

Here is the crazy part! Figuring out if you are properly hydrated is a super easy process – even a 5 year old can tell you if they are hydrated enough when given the proper information. In the language of our kids – if your pee looks like lemonade, you are good – if it looks like apple juice or darker, then you are dehydrated. Easy peasy. To make it really fun and visual, Gatorade created this very simple poster (or as the Gatorade Sports Moms called it – a Pee Chart) you can hang in the locker room or share with your athletes. Click on the image above to download the poster as a PDF.

Another way to measure fluid loss – which is not always as accessible – is to have your athlete weigh themselves before exercise and after. If they are properly hydrated there will be no weight difference. For every pound of sweat they left on the field, they need to replace it with 16 ounces of fluid consumed slowly over the next 30-60 minutes. Again, pretty simple stuff.

What to Drink Before & After Exercise

Before exercise your athlete needs to:

  • Drink ~5-7 ml per kg of body weight four (4) hours before exercise
  • Drink ~3-5 ml per kg body weight two (2) hours before exercise

For example – if your athlete weighs 130 lbs., they need to drink about 10 oz. of fluid four hours before workout and another 4-6 oz. two hours before. Now this is a rough estimate and by monitoring their urine color, athletes can determine whether they need more or less fluid intake.

After exercise athletes need to drink 16 oz. for every pound of weight lost due to sweat.

With school schedules and our generally busy lives, it is not always possible to follow the pre-exercise hydration schedule exactly, but with basic hydration knowledge our athletes can better prepare to perform at their best.

This information was gleaned from the notes I took during a presentation by GSSI scientists given to a group of Sports Moms in a recent Gatorade sponsored event. The GSSI was founded to help athletes optimize performance and well being through research and education in hydration and nutrition science.

Categories : Nutrition
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Gatorade Sports Moms Monday I was in Chicago at the Gatorade Headquarters with seven other amazing Sports Moms for an exclusive opportunity to learn about about how Gatorade fuels young athlete performance. As Moms, we are primarily the ones getting kids to and from practice and games, managing schedules, handling the emotions, and washing out the grass stains. We are also responsible for the care and feeding of our athletes and face it, when it comes down to knowing the nutritional and hydration needs of our athletes on game day as opposed to our own nutritional needs, we are really under educated.

Today I am just going to give you a quick overview of our day with the Gatorade team. I literally took PAGES of notes on the how, why and when of fueling our athletes, how Gatorade fits into that and my thoughts on the Gatorade products which I will be sharing with you in more detailed posts over the next few weeks. Be sure to like the Sports Girls Play Facebook page or follow Sports Girls Play on Twitter so you don’t miss a thing!

We started our day with introductions and breakfast with the President of Gatorade North America, Sarah Robb O’Hagan. Sarah is a sports mom of three, a runner and super smart business woman. We had a great time sharing our own backgrounds, including how many kids we each had, the sports they play and what our websites were.

Next we met with their marketing department and got background on the history of Gatorade and its branding. Basically Gatorade was developed in 1965 in an effort to help college football players at the University of Florida (thus Gator – ade) maintain athletic performance throughout practice and games (watch the history of Gatorade commercial on YouTube – love it!). In Gatorade’s early years they focused primarily on athletes – testing them, finding out what they needed from a sports drink and formulating Gatorade to help. As the sports drink market grew, Gatorade in their own words kind of “lost its way” – marketing itself broadly to the general consumer and as a result, sales stagnated. After all, Gatorade is formulated to aid the body in the preparation, during, and immediately after EXERCISE. Gatorade is not formulated as a drink you kick back and consume during a movie or as a replacement for water. In the past few years Gatorade has re-focused its efforts on athlete and education of the athlete’s core team – the coaches, trainers, and while they are young – the parents.

Gatorade Become

One of the new Gatorade print ads aimed at Sports Moms

Throughout the course of our sessions with the marketing team we shared our preconceived impressions of Gatorade. We shared with them how we do or don’t already use Gatorade in our kids’ daily lives. We asked them tough questions about High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS – which, oh by the way, Gatorade no longer has), sugar, dyes and not knowing which product would be good for our kids when, how much, and why. Gatorade was hoping for those types of questions from us and responded giving us the ability to ask our hard questions directly to the scientists and product developers.

At lunch we met with Wanda Pratt, the Mother of NBA rising star Kevin Durant. You can watch her video spot as part of the Gatorade Become campaign below:

Wanda’s presentation to us was very inspirational and I loved how she shared stories of her son’s younger days. I especially liked the one where he stormed out of practice because his coach gave him conditioning he didn’t like. He walked to his Grandmother’s house and by the time he got there the coach had already talked with Wanda who had talked with his Grandmother. The way the coach and the parent handled the situation was right-on the money and about an hour later – after his Grandmother mentioned something about how piano might be a good thing to take up – Kevin returned to practice – and did every one of the tasks coach had asked for.

She answered all our questions and reassured us that one day, our athletes would thank us for all our support and everything we have done for them in order for them to follow a dream.

We spent our afternoon in sessions with scientists from the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI), where they have tested over 10,000 athletes! The majority of the scientists at GSSI are former athletes and coaches – like the two who did presentations for us – Lindsey Baker and Lisa Esposito.  Lindsey has a Ph. D. in Exercise Physiology from Penn State and she knew her stuff! Wow! The sessions on Teen Athlete Insights and Nutritional Needs as well as the Science of Gatorade were fascinating and this is where I took the most notes. Even if you take Gatorade out of the equation, the information the scientists shared with us is VITAL stuff for coaches, athletes and parents! If you want your athlete to succeed, you have got to pay attention to what is going in their bodies. For example – how do you teach your athletes to determine if they are dehydrated or not?? Check back on a future post for this really easy way!

My own Gatorade

My Gatorade creation and other product samples

Finally we finished up the day in the sampling room. We made our own Gatorade flavors – like mine at the right, which is Char’s Cherry Berry Pomegranate Potion – and learned more about the research that goes into coming up with new Gatorade products. We learned about each of the various Gatorade product lines and who they really are for – like the new G Series FIT which is more for the older athlete (ahem, 40 something Moms) who work out but don’t need all the extra calories that a college soccer player may need. We tasted them all and told the team exactly how we felt about each product – trust me, there were some serious faces being made and the honesty was on the table!! We told them if we would buy them or not – I found two products that I was completely unaware of that are excellent solutions for two of my own athletes (more on that in a later post) and fell totally in LOVE with the Gatorade Natural line.

Speaking of the Gatorade Natural line, they are natural versions of the Gatorade Thirst Quencher line and low-calorie G2 that are made with all natural flavors, colors and ingredients! And they taste AMAZING. Unfortunately they are only available in certain markets and only through Whole Foods stores. If you want this line available in more areas and outlets, please let the Gatorade team know. All the moms in our group did!

Like I said, I took so many notes and have lots to share with you about sports nutrition and your kids over the next few weeks, so check back in. In the meantime, feel free to check in with the other Gatorade Sports Moms and read their accounts of the experience, too.

The Gatorade Sports Moms are: Char Polanosky from Sports Girls Play (that’s me) with 3 kids,  Lorraine Williams from Track Mom with 1 daughter, Lori Falcon from My Wooden Spoon with 3 boys, Carmen Staicer from Mom to the Screaming Masses who has 6 kids, Lisa Douglas from Crazy Adventures in Parenting also with 6 kids, Kimberly Kauer from Tippy Toes and Tantrums with 2 kids, Alyssa Banko from Mommy Warriors who has 4 kids (two sets of twins!) and Stephanie Wagner from And Twins Makes 5 with 5 busy kids.

Disclosure: I’d like to thank Gatorade for this truly educational opportunity! Gatorade provided me with all my transportation to and from the event, my lovely stay at The Wit Hotel, my delicious meal at Spiaggia and some nice Sports Moms swag. However, all opinions and insights shared in this post are my own derived from the information provided to us and my own experience.

Categories : Nutrition, Parenting
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