How Nutrition Impacts Kids’ Confidence in Sports

What Should Sports Kids Eat on Game Day?

There’s an important link between what kids eat and their confidence in sports, says Kimberly Lackey, founder of Empath Coaching.

“When I think of confidence, I think of mood,” she says.

“You want to keep kids away from food that might sap energy or cause foul moods and steer them toward healthier options.”

Sugary foods, she says, can cause kids to crash quickly, which can undermine their confidence.

“Instead, focus on healthy carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are a good food that helps boost serotonin and provides good clean energy,” she says.

Nutrition can also affect your young athletes’ fear of failure, says Lackey.

“I live in Florida, where it’s excessively hot. Football players who aren’t properly hydrated or who lack proper nutrition can really feel the heat, and having the confidence that they’ll be nutritionally able to get through the game is a huge mental edge,” says Lackey.

She also says that in hot weather, limiting sugar and soft drinks is critical.

“Sugar, coffee, and soft drinks cause dehydration and can cause headaches for some kids too.”

Aside from this, both sugar and caffeine are known to enhance the effects of stress and anxiety, which will only further hurt your kids’ mental game.

While low-carb diets are touted as healthy, these diets can hurt athletes – especially young athletes, she says.

Low-carb diets make it harder for kids to burn glycogen, which is the source of energy most often used for exercise and to power kids’ muscles and decision-making.

If young athletes don’t have enough glycogen stored up in their muscles, their bodies will start breaking down protein to make glucose for energy instead, which hurts the formation of muscles. And it could also hurt kids’ decision-making abilities—and confidence, Lackey says.

So what should you feed your children on game day?

“I would recommend a meal or supplement rich in Vitamin D and selenium,” says Lackey. “Most times I would recommend high-carb diets and protein meals like chicken and pasta, macaroni and cheese, good smoothies rich in vitamins.”

Eggs provide both protein and Vitamin D, she adds.

“We know that kids’ metabolisms are fast and anything that helps them stay full longer is great,” says Lackey. “If they can run faster or be in a game longer, it builds their confidence.”

Listen to the interview:

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