It’s a familiar sight. Kids finishing practice exclaiming that they’re starving and the parents telling them to just wait until they get home to eat. I actually said those same words many times a decade ago… until I understood I was making a huge mistake.
It was one of those “why didn’t anyone tell me sooner?” moments.
It was also the moment I realized that all of my nutrition education and a sports nutrition certification weren’t entirely effective for the needs of growing athletes (yes, even the kids that are tallest in the house and “done growing” are still developing until their early 20’s).
Although developing bodies can store large quantities of carbohydrates, it’s not to the extent of a mature adult. Kids and teens need to replenish them frequently, and post-workout is a crucial time.
The 30-45 minutes immediately post-workout (also called the “glycogen window”) is the body’s most effective time to replenish spent glycogen/carbohydrates not only for repair and recovery from that workout, but to also prepare the body for tomorrow also.
Typically, though, by the time our athletes get off the ice (field or gym), change, talk to their teammates, and get home that essential refuelling window is long gone.
While protein drinks seem convenient and are often advertised as “post-workout” refuel, the primary focus in this short period is carbohydrates. But, we also know vending machine snacks and drive-thru options- albeit carbs- aren’t providing the best replenishing and recovery options.
What are better “glycogen window” refuelling options? Although some athletes are ravenous post-workout, some can’t stomach the idea of food. Oranges or frozen grapes are often easily tolerated by both types of athletes. Or try other convenient options such as:
- Fresh pineapple
- Banana and almonds
- Carrots and celery
- Sliced bell peppers with hummus
- ½ turkey sandwich or peanut butter and jam
- 4-6 oz sports drink (preferably with no sucralose/acesulfame potassium or artificial colors)
Remember, this window isn’t meant to be a meal, just an opportunity to replenish spent glycogen. Adding bonus immunity boosting, inflammation reducing, energy supporting vitamins and minerals (fruits and veggies) is added support for their game, growth, and health.