Snacks fuel performance for student athletes

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Between the school day and afternoon practices, student athletes need quality food to fuel performance in class and on the field.

“You want to be at your best and to get there is to eat,” says Anna King, Registered Dietician with Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.

King says students are encouraged to eat every four to six hours to help fuel growth. The timeline works for the typical elapsed time between breakfast and lunch, but becomes problematic between lunch and dinner – the time most student athletes go to practice.

“Let’s say they eat lunch at 12 p.m., but then don’t get home from practice and eat dinner until 7 p.m. — that’s too much time between meals,” says King. “A snack after school — before practice is a great way to make sure they get that extra energy to get them through practice or through a game,” says King.

King suggests a small snack between 150 to 200 calories before practice that contains carbohydrates, a moderate amount of protein and even some fat.

Research points to a 3 to1 ratio of carbs to protein as being the perfect combination for performance at practice, as well as the proper ratio for foods to refuel tired muscles post-workout.

“You want those carbohydrates to refuel you pretty quickly because your muscles use a lot of carbohydrate energy, but you still need the protein to rebuild the muscles as well,” says King.

Anna King, RD spoons peanut butter on to a display of healthy pre-practice snacks for student athletes.
Anna King, RD spoons peanut butter on to a display of healthy pre-practice snacks for student athletes.

King suggests the following snacks for pre-practice:

  • Chocolate Milk
  • Cheese and Crackers
  • Trail Mix
  • Peanut Butter and Crackers
  • Peanut Butter and Pretzels
  • Peanut Butter and Fruit

“Even throwing in some kind of sweet at the end, like a trail mix with chocolate chips in it, that’s fine, too,” says King.

It’s a simple snack that could pay off big on the field. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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