Your Guide to Sports Snacks for Kids – Wrapping it all Up

By: Chris Weiler

Today we will cover a third and final rule to simplify your sports snack decisions.

Rule #3 – Eat lower Glycemic Index foods before training, and higher Glycemic Index foods after training.

• The Glycemic Index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating. Foods with a high GI are those which are rapidly digested and absorbed, which result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Say it with me – Diabetes. Low-GI foods, by virtue of their slow digestion and absorption, produce a gradual rise in blood sugar and insulin levels which promotes an efficient, strong metabolism.

• This means, eat whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, meat, fish, poultry and eggs before practice and save your granola bars, yogurt, milk and other packaged snacks for after practice. This is when the body is greedily searching for sugars and proteins to restock energy supplies and effect repairs on muscle tissue.

• The more refined/processed the ingredients, the higher the GI load. A sports bar with ingredients that are more refined, are ground down into powders and pastes to produce a more smooth, uniform looking bar. An example of a less refined sports bar, is one with fully intact clusters of nuts and seeds. Two powerful factors that reduce the GI load, by slowing the metabolization of sugars, are fat and fiber. Since the “Less Refined” bars pictured below obtain a higher percentage of their calories from nuts and seeds (fiber and fat) they have a lower GI load than the “More Refined” bar. So, when choosing between bars, go for those that are both less refined and adhere to Rule #1.

 

Sports_Bar_-_Less_Refined_1               Sports_Bar_-_Less_Refined_2

Sports_Bar_-_More_Refined_1

• All sports drinks, and many sports bars, are treated by the body as fast acting sugars (high GI load) as a high percentage of their calories come from sugar, as well as being highly processed. There is a correlation between the degree of processing and the glycemic/insulin load. Sports drinks are mostly made of sugars, including glucose polymers, which puts them at the top of the GI. Most bar type supplements are made from at least 50% sugar, including fructose, rice syrup and cane juice. An exception is the flavor and fiber bar pictured below, with less than 1/3 of its calories coming from sugars and a whopping 12 grams of fiber, 8 grams being soluble. With that much fiber, I’d make sure you do a little restroom reconnaissance, if you are taking this bar on the road. My potty mouth aside, remember that this is still a highly processed supplement and the types of fiber used in these bars are typically chicory root inulin and psyllium, which is a common over the counter intestinal bulking laxative. The types of fiber added to supplements are mostly lacking, as they are either processed and extracted from a whole food, or are an artificial, non-food based form of fiber, which is not the same as the nutrient dense fiber found in whole food sources. The exceptions to this are bars that get most of their fat and fiber calories from nuts and seeds rather than sugar and fiber fillers. Keep in mind, aside from sugar, popular ingredients in many sports bars, including granola, rice and oats are all metabolized as sugar and have a high GI load. Yes, even the oats, as it is the cheaper, highly processed “quick cooking” oats that are used in sports bars.

Interestingly, it is the high fat and fiber content that makes both Milky Way and Snickers candy bars lower on the GI than Clif Bars. So why is a candy bar not preferred over trendy sports bars? The difference is covered by Rule #1 , as candy bars typically violate the ingredients list of Rule #1 more than sports bars. Still, unless your sports snacks are coming from whole food sources, packaged sports snacks are not nutritious, good for you or make you fit or healthy. This does not mean they are all bad, but simply provide convenient calories (energy) in the form of sugars. Your job is limited to choosing ones with the least amount of harmful ingredients. Simple, when you follow Rule #1.

Putting It All Together

So, sports snack selection is actually pretty simple. Eliminate options by avoiding the ingredients listed in Rule #1, then make your choices based on taste. Ultimately this leads us back to what we have always known… choose whole foods rather than conveniently packaged grab food.
Rule #1 – Narrow down list of snack choices by discounting any that contain artificial sweeteners, flavors, additives and/or colors. Simply choose from what is left by taste.
Rule #2 – Most athletes don’t need sports drinks or chocolate/flavored milk.
Rule #3 – Eat lower Glycemic Index foods before training, and higher Glycemic Index foods after training.

Do you or your children use sports drinks/bars? Why or why not? Which one’s do you use? Are they always in the house and available? If so, why?

Chris Weiler

Chris Weiler

Visit Chris at Powerful Athletes
As a fitness and strength trainer for the past 20 years, Chris has specialized in youth athletic performance, development and rehabilitation.He is passionate about creating systems that make it easy for kids, parents, coaches and educators, to properly integrate balanced physical, mental and emotional development.
In addition to proper physical and nutrition development, Chris has expanded his focus to include how we perform in all areas of life, to express ourselves in achieving personally meaningful goals. Through this, we help create happy, fulfilled lives.He has created programs for and presented to fortune 500 companies such as M&M Mars, Wrigley and Ernst & Young, interviewed by JenningsWire and the Dr. Jerry Kennedy Show, and published online at sites such as Livestrong and iVillage. He is the author of The 3/4 Rule - How to eat as a young athlete and the upcoming book The Reflex - How to Create Thoughts, Words and Actions to Achieve Your Goals.
Chris Weiler

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