Healthy Eating for Your Gymnast
The number one question I get asked by parents of younger gymnasts isn’t ” what” should they eat but rather “when”. How do you structure their food so that they have enough to sustain them through twice a day training, or long evening training and a full day of school without the dreaded slump halfway through and the crash where they are so hungry you end up at the drive-thru because they can’t make it home.
Gymnastics isn’t a sport that requires a huge amount of calories to supply the energy required therefore you need to make every calorie count, packing as much nutrition as you can into every bite so that it isn’t weighing them down. This is also important for the kid who never wants to eat anything, if you are only eating a few bites they better be the healthiest bites they can be. What many athletes have found works well is grazing – several mini meals throughout the day.
This is what a typical day looks like at our house;
Breakfast before training – some kids don’t like training on a full stomach, mine is one of them. Breakfast is sprouted wheat toast and peanut butter or oatmeal. If you can introduce sprouted wheat bread it is great, one slice has the same amount of protein as an egg.
After training – this is when she is starving! Typically chocolate milk, fruit and yogurt or muffin. Muffins can be a great snack but be careful of store bought ones, often they are just ugly cupcakes, loaded with sugar and fat. Aussie bites from Costco are a great little two bite snack and taste great with peanut butter or dunked in applesauce.
Lunch – lunch is Usually dinner leftovers in a thermos, , the rest of her milk, veggies and a piece of fruit. I always freeze leftovers in individual portions so that she has a variety to choose from.
Before gym – yogurt and a granola bar
After gym – eats whatever is left in her bag on the way home. This sounds like a lot of food but small portions of several different things is what works best for her.
Dinner – younger gymnasts who train later may find it hard to eat a big meal right before bed, that was when we moved the larger meal to lunchtime and just had a light meal on the way home from gym.
Younger gymnasts who still have snack during gym – this is meant to be a quick five minute snack, not a mini meal. They should be able to eat it in ten bites and be back in the gym. A yogurt, a piece of fruit or some veggies or some cheese and a couple whole grain crackers is all they need.
Every kid is different and it may take some trial and error to find the right combination for your child and her schedule. Try and include a fruit or vegetable, a whole grain and some protein at each meal. Most importantly include your child in the conversation about why this is important. Good nutrition is a huge part in staying healthy ( and healing quickly) as a gymnast. If they are part of the planning of what they are eating they are less likely to come home with a full lunch bag.
*** Disclaimer- I am not an expert in nutrition, just a mom who is willing to share what I have learned along the way.
To read something written by a real expert go to the kindle store and download
Because she is worth it – a nutritional guide for parent with daughters by Dr Joshua Eldridge
He knows gymnastics well and has written it specifically for gymnasts
written by Tracey Anderson
Tracey is one of our Pegasus Gymnastics parents with a National level gymnast. We thank her for sharing her knowledge and experiences with other gymnastics parents who are new to the scene and some of the seasoned parents who are always looking for great ways to help out their athletes. Thank you Tracey!