Yesssss. It was chicken tender & french fry day at school. My favorite. For whatever reason, french fry day was a huge deal at our school. Not sure why but once a week they were served. And something about those chicken tenders... mmmm mmmmm. Mouth watering just thinking about them.
Right... mouth - watering until we fast-forward to about 4:00 that afternoon in the middle of cross country practice when I wanted to fall out on the Tuckahoe pavement (the street our practice runs often included), thinking maybe the SMS golf cart would appear like a knight in shining armor and cruise me back to the school (wishful thinking). I realized in that moment that chicken tenders and fries may not be my body's fuel of choice and this was the way it decided to get my attention.
Cross country practice began at 3:30 and that particular day was a long run day. Typically I would run at a pretty nice clip. I'm mentally competitive with myself more than anyone else and would refuse to stop until I had reached the end. Well, clearly this day was different. I made it about 8 minutes and it all fell apart. Nausea, stomach cramping, fatigue, you name it. After deciding that lying down in the middle of the street waiting for a golf cart to come pick me up was probably not going to end in my favor, I walked the majority of the route back and finally finished with not only my worst time, but also feeling the worst I had ever felt after a run. Now, I don't know if my lunchtime choice was the only culprit, but that was the only factor different than any other day. I decided then and there that future lunches would be different. Fried food clearly did nothing for me and if I was going to go to practice, I wanted it to be beneficial.
The next day and all of the days following were new days. Of course I still enjoyed my chicken tenders and fries, but certainly not as my pre-run meal. I started experimenting with different foods and different food combinations and took notice of how I practiced and how I felt at afternoon practices. I found my ideal fueling lunch to include complex carbohydrates (fruits, whole grain crackers, whole-wheat pita, and / or low fat yogurts), a source of protein (peanut butter, string cheese, tuna, turkey, or chicken) and some healthy fats here and there (peanut butter, almonds, hummus, avocado, and olive oil). I never had a practice like that again and, as I started to be more thoughtful with my school lunches and meal and snack timing, I saw myself get stronger and faster, both in my running and in my skating, as the weeks went on.
Now, with this post I'm not saying no more fried food ever again. I'm simply saying that if you want better performances and better practices, it's time to move the fried foods (or any other foods that can be harder to digest or leave you tired during events) over to make room for the more nutrient-dense foods that fuel those hard-working muscles and brain and propel you towards the finish line (especially when planning your pre-event meal!!).
10 simple ideas for the Young Athlete’s pre-game meal
(This meal is typically consumed 3 to 4 hours before the event. you may also need a pre-event snack, which you can find ideas for in my previous post here.)
Turkey sandwich with lettuce, tomato and dijon mustard. Cheese, if tolerated. I love my Turkey Melt that I posted a while back!
Stuffed Sweet Potato (I love my 9-Ingredient Stuffed Sweet Potato as a vegetarian option!)
Breakfast Sandwich like my 5-Ingredient Breakfast Sandwich!
Peanut Butter and Jelly or Honey Sandwich with an apple and / or glass of milk
Pasta salad with chicken + yogurt or glass of milk and fruit
Low-fat cottage cheese + fruit + whole grain crackers and hummus
Tuna salad (made without mayo) sandwich or on crackers + an apple + yogurt
Homemade pizzas (ex: thick English muffins, marinara sauce, some veggies of choice, sliced chicken and a sprinkle of cheese) + fruit.