Dr Debbie, an expert nutritionist, is here to give her top festive athlete food tips for parents and families.

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Christmas for Sporting Parents……Food!

It’s a tough time of the year: cold, dark, everywhere we look there’s food (TV adverts, every shop seems to have Christmas snacks, the fridge, the special treats cupboard…) and given it’s school holidays, normal training schedules may be amended meaning reduced training volume.  Here’s some tips for helping support your young athlete through the next few weeks:

  • Training less generally means eating less (or, put more scientifically: reduced energy expenditure needs to be matched by reduced energy intake) – the caveat for younger athletes is growth.  If your athlete is going through a growth spurt then energy intake will need to be higher.  
  • But what to cut down on?  The most important fuel for athletes is carbohydrates (cereals, grains, bread, pasta, oats etc) – so the more training, the more carbs you need and vice versa.  In our Western diet, most of us get sufficient protein and fat without trying.  So think about reducing carb-based snacks….less toast, more apples for example.
  • Over the next few weeks, try to encourage your athletes to snack on fruit or veggies.  Of course, they will want to have treats, but why not suggest eating a whole orange before a couple of chocolate orange segments.  Having the real fruit first will help curb hunger, provide vitamins, minerals, fibre and water.  
  • Don’t forget the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants found in fruit and veggies.  These are important for everyone, but especially so for young athletes who are growing and training and all these micronutrients will support training and growth.  Explaining that these micronutrients are super-important for training may help to encourage an additional spoonful of carrots and green beans and not just turkey and roast potatoes on Christmas Day!
  • Maintain great fluid intake.  It’s really easy to forget to drink as much water as we normally do at this time of year – so maybe suggest keeping a water bottle to hand to ensure regular intakes of water (flavoured with mint, lemon, lime etc for a change).  
  • But perhaps the most important thing is to enjoy this time of year and with regard to food, my top tip is everything in moderation – but don’t forget the basics.  So yes, have some chocolate, Christmas pud or whatever takes your fancy, but don’t forget to load up on veggies, fruit and water.

Happy Christmas!

Dr Debbie

Dr Deborah Coughlin- MSc Applied Sports Nutrition, SENr

Performance Sport and Nutrition

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