Game's Over, Let's Eat!
Regardless of whether your team won or lost, you worked your body hard at today's game. So, now it's time to refuel your empty tank (aka stomach). But stop and think for a minute before you run over to get that burger and fries.
Would you rather drag your body around for the rest of the day feeling like your muscles are stuck in quicksand and your brain is still back at the soccer field, as you try to slog through that mountain of homework that's due tomorrow? Or would you rather get home feeling so energized that you finish your homework in record time and have plenty of time left over to hang out with your buddies? Believe it or not, what you eat after the game will likely dictate what the rest of your day will look like.
Not only will your post-game snack affect the rest of your day today, it'll also make a big difference in how your body will perform at practice tomorrow! Why? Because once you finish a tough game or workout, the body uses whatever food you put into it to get your muscles ready for future exercise. It needs two things to do this--carbohydrates (found in fruits, grains, starchy vegetables, beans, etc.) to replenish glycogen stores in the muscles and liver (which is like filling up your body's fuel tank); and protein (found in nuts, seeds, dairy products, eggs, poultry, fish, lean meats, tofu and soy foods) to repair muscle damage.
And it needs to have those carbs and protein fast--research shows that it's critical to eat at least a small snack within the first 45 minutes after a game or practice. After that, your body can't replenish the lost glycogen as effectively, and the consequences are that your muscles won't be able to work as hard for as long, the next time you practice or play.
But I don't get why I can't just eat french fries and a burger after a game, you say, since french fries come from a starchy vegetable and a burger has protein? Well, the problem is they've got massive amounts of FAT, which acts like quicksand for the body and brain. With all that fat (and without much fiber to help speed things up), your body will take its own sweet time to digest that calorie-filled meal, which takes all the blood away from your brain, diverts it to your gut and saps your energy in the process. Meanwhile, your muscles and liver don't get the nutrients they need to make more fuel, or glycogen, for the next game or practice until it's too late.
So do yourself, your teammates and your coach a favor--forget the fries and go for a glass of milk (or chocolate milk), a grilled chicken sandwich and an apple, instead. Or try some of these other ideas for post-game snacks or meals:
§ 100% Whole grain crackers & cheese
§ Apples & peanut butter
§ Granola bar or protein bar
§ Trail mix (dried fruit, breakfast cereal and nuts)
§ Smoothie (with fruit & veggies and one or more: nut butter, milk, yogurt, protein powder, silken tofu)
§ Pasta with meat sauce (choose lean ground beef, turkey, chicken or soy protein)
§ Low-fat cheese/veggie pizza slice with a side salad or soup§ Lean meat sandwich or “wrap” style sandwich