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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Tips for Fueling Your Child's Inner Athlete


With three of our four kids playing several different sports throughout the year, I was intrigued by the opportunity to be part of a conference call sponsored by Gatorade. The first part of the call was a conversation along with a question/answer period with Stephanie Hamm, mom of Mia Hamm, an Olympic athlete and an American soccer legend!  Here's a link to a special video of Stephanie Hamm as she talks about her daughter, Mia.   Stephanie Hamm VIDEO

Stephanie conversed openly and warmly with her audience of bloggers and she offered fascinating glimpses into their family life as they raised Mia, along with her 5 brothers and sisters. Six kids with extremely busy sports schedules!!! Stephanie commented that Mia was the 4th of 6 kids and could have easily been lost in the shuffle if it weren't for her personal charisma and drive. 

When asked how they balanced sports with school and family time, Stephanie commented that for them, sports time IS family time. They had a pack mentality, and the entire family supported each other at their sporting events. Oftentimes, Stephanie would pack food and supplies for an entire day, and the family would head off to their various events.

I appreciated how Stephanie stressed the importance of the basics – a good breakfast , plenty of sleep and teaching her kids the importance of respect for coaches and referees. She continuously mentioned how impressed she was with moms of young athletes today who are juggling family life, with careers, school schedules and increasingly demanding sports schedules!

Our next conversation was with Lisa Esposito, a scientist from Gatorade's Sports Science Institute (GSSI). Lisa had loads of interesting scientific studies to support her comments, but there were several key points that I was able to find immediate application for my athletes.

Our youngest is 5 and is not yet participating in sports – his job for now is to go to all the games and cheer (or yawn) for his brother and sisters. 

The other 3 kids (ages 10, 12 and 14) play sports year-round: Emme and Jayden play soccer and basketball, while Maea plays indoor and outdoor soccer seasons.

Jayden, our 10 year old soccer athlete.

One of the comments that struck a chord with me is that nearly all moms think their kids are fully hydrated, when in fact 70% of athletes show up to practice/events dehydrated. Sweating is the body’s way of managing heat – better hydration means better heat management = better performance.

A simple and obvious way to assess hydration is with a “pee test”. Lisa explained that urine should be the color of lemonade. If it is clear like water, your athlete is over-hydrated, and if it is the color of apple juice or darker, your athlete is dehydrated.

“Athletes are athletes all day long,” she explained. Preparing for practice or a game can’t be something you do right before the game, it’s an all day attitude toward optimal performance. Guzzling water just before and during a game is not achieving good hydration. But slowly sipping on water or Gatorade throughout the day does properly hydrate the body. It’s sometimes hard to get my kids to drink water, but with Gatorade’s sweet taste (which is NOT high fructose corn syrup), proper hydration is certainly easier and with the electrolytes in Gatorade, they help maintain hydration longer.

Another interesting area is the testing Gatorade has conducted with “sweat patches” on professional and amateur athletes at all levels. If you’ve ever noticed the white residue left behind on t-shirts or baseball caps after a strenuous practice, that’s the sodium the body loses through sweating.

If you have athletes that are prone to muscle cramps, Gatorade’s testing has found that athletes that have a tendency for muscle cramps are also biologically disposed to releasing 2X the amount of sodium in their sweat when compared to athletes who are not prone to cramping. The potassium in Gatorade helps to rapidly replace sodium loss which minimizes cramping and increases an athlete’s performance level.

Maea attempts a goal on a penalty kick.

Another one of the GSSI studies tested athletes at various levels of hydration. Athletes that were dehydrated, had impaired performance power (sprint to finish line) and accuracy of shooting. So in those last few minutes of a game, when the athletes are exhausted and dripping with sweat, that’s usually the moments when each basket (or goal) counts the most – and with proper hydration, they have better accuracy and overall performance.

Emme races her opponent to the ball.

The final take-away for me was when Lisa explained the importance of 10-20 grams of protein within 30-60 minutes AFTER a game for muscle recovery. On tournament weekends, it’s not uncommon for our kids to play two games a day in close succession. Muscle soreness and fatigue can be significantly reduced (so that the kids are ready for the next game) if they have protein right after a game or practice. 

3-4 hours before a game, protein is easily attained with a small meal, or even a peanut-butter and banana sandwich (protein in the peanut butter and potassium in the banana) or even a cup of greek-style yogurt (i.e. Chobani) that has 14 grams of protein. But after the game, especially if it was a hot, sweaty game, a cold Gatorade is more appetizing and has the appropriate protein content for muscle recovery. Lisa also commented that those 50 gram protein shakes that some athletes pound down after an event are proven to not be any more effective than those with 10-20 grams. “More isn’t necessarily better, it’s just more.”

A few additional take-aways … Gatorade has a natural product that is colored with beet juice and other natural colorants that is being marketed through Whole Foods in some areas. Click here to see if your Whole Foods carries Gatorade's G Series Natural. 

And last but not least ... our kiddos will reach for a Gatorade before they reach for a water, and so to preserve the Gatorade for practices or games, I store (hide) the powder form in the pantry until needed, and then easily add it to water.

Watching the game from the car while the girls played in the rain
a few weekends ago when the temperature reached a balmy 42 degrees!

Playing card games between games when it's too cold to play outside.

Gatorade has a new website specifically meant for moms of athletes at www.gatorade.com/moms

When we need to "fuel" our athletes with sports equipment or apparel, one of our favorite sources is Dick's Sporting Goods.  I’m giving away a $100 gift certificate to Dick’s Sporting Goods to one lucky person who comments on this post between June 1 - June 30, 2011!! I'd like to know what you do to fuel your kids' inner athlete?!?  Be sure to leave me your email address so I can contact you! See rules below.

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    • a) Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
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