So many children take part in sports or activities that mean they are often playing or performing on and off for hours. I work with lots of athletes from international to local teams and sportspeople. I am also the mother to two children who are very active and often find myself facing the same dilemma – what should they be eating or drinking between matches or performances? You want them to have sufficient fuel but for the food or drinks they choose to be easily digested. You want the ingredients to actively contribute to their performance and you certainly don’t want them feeling sluggish. I hear far too often “oh they can drink/eat what they like, they’ll burn it off”. But that’s not the point here. Here we’re talking about helping our children to perform better but also to recover more quickly too. If they’re not well fuelled and haven’t recovered well from exercise then they will be less able to train and perform next time. So one of the ways to fix this dilemma is to look at recovery drinks. These are drinks that can be made at home and taken in an insulated bottle to the day of activity with your child. They can even be frozen and then be allowed to defrost throughout the day – in fact this is suggested if you don’t own an insulated bottle as the micronutrients will be preserved for longer this way.
CHOOSE A BASE
Firstly, I recommend you and your child try and work out what kinds of bases suit them. Whilst milk is a classic choice it is not for everyone. Almond, coconut and oat milks are alternatives. They are obviously different from a nutritional stand-point. Some are fortified to be more like milk and some are not. However non-dairy “milks” may be more easily tolerated and digested. Don’t forget good old water as a base either though. At the end of the day rehydration is the most important aspect of recovery.
Probiotics are another addition you could make to your recovery drink. These “friendly” bacteria can help support your child’s immune health, meaning their body is fighting fit to recover from exercise. Some may choose therefore to make kefir (a probiotic yogurt drink no available in most supermarkets) a base liquid. Others may choose to add probiotic powders to their drinks.
NATURAL CARBOHYDRATES AND ELECTROLYTES
Many of the commercial sports and energy drinks contain easily digestible carbohydrates and electrolytes. I argue that these could be obtained from natural sources i.e. honey and coconut water. Honey is also naturally anti-bacterial and anti-viral giving a boost to the immune system.
SECRET INGREDIENT – CHIA SEEDS
A great addition to recovery drinks is chia seeds. They provide fibre and protein. They also, however, contain electrolytes lost through sweat i.e. magnesium and calcium along with iron to rebuild red blood cells – especially important for female teens. Left to soak in the drink they will actually thicken it up too making more of a thick shake consistency.
NATURAL PROTEIN POWDERS
Pea, hemp or rice proteins are great for satisfying protein requirements. You could also look at whey protein powders but sadly they’ve become quite a commercial product with lots of additives. Look for pure protein powders then make the right flavour/taste combo from your child’s own preferences. I also recommend quark – a fat free German soft cheese for smoothies as well as nut butters and seed butters for added protein. These add some thickness to the smoothies but also great flavour.
GOODNESS FROM FRUIT, VEG AND THEIR JUICES
Remember fruit and vegetables and their juices can be used to boost micronutrient, antioxidant and fibre intake. Fruit juice is also a natural sweetener.
These suggestions should help your active child find a recovery drink or two to suit their tastes and needs during long day tournaments or shows. If you come up with any particularly winning combinations then please do share on the Lunchbox Doctor Facebook Page.