Ask The Expert: Food On-the-Go

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Finding the right balance with diet and commuting is always a popular topic of discussion at our nutrition presentations. We asked if you had any specific questions relating to food ‘on-the-go’. This was your response…

Q. My question relates to Gatorade and the replacement of so-called vital salts etc. which can be depleted during intense training. What is Marcus' view on the benefits/disadvantages of using these types of drinks/supplements before, during and after training?

A. During high intensity exercise, such as football, our body temperature increases, causing our bodies to sweat. This is the body’s mechanism of regulating temperature as evaporation of sweat has a cooling effect thus reducing further increase in temperature. In addition to water, sweat contains electrolytes including sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium and magnesium. However, sweating capacity is considerably lower in children and adolescents than in adults, as their thermoregulatory system has not yet fully developed. Instead they lose heat through increased peripheral blood flow redistribution.

The purpose of Gatorade / Lucozade / Powerade and other similar sports drinks is twofold: to provide the body with carbohydrate (energy), and with fluid/electrolytes (to prevent dehydration). Considering children and adolescents under the age of 16 do not lose as much fluid and electrolytes during exercise, the need for these types of drinks is not warranted. In my opinion, water is sufficient. Additionally, provided they have consumed an appropriate carbohydrate rich diet in the 24-36 hours leading into a match, the need for carbohydrate during training or games is not required for the younger age groups.

Q. I would like to have information on: On the go ideas for before, during, after away games and tours. Sample recipes please.

Q. We live in Manchester so we have 45 mins’ travel time each way. School finishes at 3.45pm in Manchester.

What should he have before training?

When should he eat?

What should he have after training?

When should he eat? We are home at 8.30pm.

Q. We live in north Wales over an hour drive, sometimes 2 hrs depending on traffic, when he trains until 8pm it's difficult to find foods suitable to eat on the way home or I prepare him fresh meals but often 9.30 before he's home, he will have pasta or similar before he heads to training, again ideas of snacks if he leaves straight from school for a 4.45 start, we feel it's important for his recovery to eat well and do try & give him healthy food but often difficult under our circumstances.

A. All players (irrespective of age-group) should aim to eat every 3-4 hours throughout the day. Considering most of the boys have lunch between 12pm and 1pm, they should be eating again between 3pm and 4pm. Younger players should leave at least an hour between eating and training (although some individuals may tolerate food consumption in the hour before training) to allow for some time for digestion. If this is not possible, liquids such as flavoured milk or smoothies may be preferable. Considering this feed (snack or mini-meal) will also be their pre-training feed, it should contain a moderate/high amount of carbohydrate (for energy), in addition to protein (for growth and repair) and some fruit or veg. Don’t forget fluids too! You can check the amount of carbohydrate and protein recommended for snacks depending on your son’s weight, here.

Some simple on the go meals would be:

Menu 1

  • Tuna and salad sandwich
  • Cereal bar
  • Apple
  • Glass of milk

Menu 2

  • Chicken salad wrap
  • Yogurt
  • Banana
  • Glass of fresh fruit juice

Menu 3

  • Pasta pot with chicken, vegetables and a tomato sauce
  • Pear
  • Flavoured milk

Snack Alternative:

Nut Butter Smoothie - Click here to see the recipe.

After training, players should ALWAYS eat a proper meal to ensure full recovery from exercise, but also to support growth. Again, this should contain a source of protein (chicken breast, a fillet of fish, a serving of meat), a source of carbohydrate (wholegrain/brown pasta, rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, noodles) and a variety of vegetables – the more colour on their plate, the better!

Keep an eye on the PE&R website for a new recipe suggestion each month!

Q. A bit more complex but 'eating out'/take away options will be good for times parents are unable to prepare and give money for kids to buy lunch, for example, what to avoid and best options - explained.

A. Great question! In fact, we liked it so much that we will be producing an article about how to ‘make bad choices better’ when eating out at common fast food restaurants in the April PE&R website update – keep your eyes peeled!

Q. I have a question around away games, particularly those further afield e.g. Newcastle. We’re told to give the boys a packed lunch for on the way back, but I think they should probably have something light on the way. I would be grateful if Marcus could share his thoughts on what might be appropriate if say, a boy eats breakfast around 7am and then travels from 8am, with kick off at 11.30am or even 12.30pm?

A. Yes I would agree, they will need a snack on way to a game following breakfast. Cereal bars, flapjacks, fruit and fruit juices are all good options because of their high carbohydrate content which will provide energy during the game.

Q. Wondered if your expert could list some convenient (i.e. zero effort) snacks to give after school on the way to training? Other than bananas!

A. Ideally you would make your own snacks as you are in control of the ingredients and the quality of the ingredients that are eaten. However, along with fruit, cereal bars, yogurts (,,, biltong/dried meats (,, flavoured milk ( are all convenient options.