What to feed children after exercise

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What children eat and drink after they exercise can make a big difference when it comes to how well their bodies are able to repair and recover.

Having a snack or meal after activity which is packed with carbohydrate and protein is the best thing you can offer them to help refuel, repair and build their muscles.

During exercise, children are likely to use some of the carbohydrate stores that they have in their muscles (glycogen). Including carbohydrate rich foods after their exercise session will help to replace these depleted glycogen stores within the muscles and including protein at the same time will help repair broken down muscle tissue.

Water Polo KidFor children to get the maximum recovery benefits from eating a carbohydrate and protein rich snack after exercise, it is important to try and give it to them within the first 30 minutes, followed by a well-balanced meal within the next 2-3 hours.

Some carbohydrate and protein rich snack ideas for within 30minutes of finishing exercise include:

  • Yoghurt and a piece of fruit
  • A glass of reduced fat milk + a banana
  • Tuna and rice crackers
  • Fruit smoothie with fruit and milk
  • Bowl of cereal + milk
  • Peanut butter and banana sandwich

Rehydration is another crucial part of a child’s recovery after exercise. It is important to replace fluid loss from sweating as soon as possible after exercise to ensure they don’t get dehydrated. Water and/or reduced fat milk (e.g. lite blue or trim) are the preferred choices. Make sure they always have a drink bottle on hand every day.

Some children struggle with a poor appetite post-exercise so having a strategy to overcome this issue will ensure they are still able to recover as best as they can.

If your child struggles to eat solid food after exercise, you can try a carbohydrate and protein based liquid beverage (e.g. chocolate milk, liquid breakfast drink or a smoothie made from fruit, milk and yoghurt) as these can be easier to stomach and do not require chewing.  Planning ahead and ensuring your child has portable pre-prepared snacks to eat after exercise, wherever they are, will help guarantee they have access to appropriate food post activity.

Ensuring your child has an effective post-activity recovery needn’t be complicated. Making sure suitable (i.e. carbohydrate and protein rich) food and beverages are available for consumption within the first 30 minutes after exercise, will help to guarantee your child recovers effectively.

Note: This advice is for children who are doing regular, high intensity exercise (e.g. rowing every morning or swimming/exercising every day rather than just the odd short swim or exercise class at school)

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