Best Halftime Snacks for Athletes [Guide to Enhance Performance]

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Most youth athletes have grown up with halftime snacks at their soccer games or other sporting events. 

But do athletes really need a halftime snack?

Yes, they do, especially for athletes performing activities lasting over 60 minutes and at high intensity. Consuming adequate snacks and rehydrating can help athletes perform at the top of their game.

Halftime snacks should be part of your performance nutrition planning. 

How much should an athlete eat for halftime snacks and what are the best options?

Why are halftime snacks important

As you play your game, your body breaks down its stores of energy (glycogen) in your muscles and liver. By consuming carbohydrates and making more energy available, you can help to preserve these stores so that you can have energy later in the game. 

Goals for halftime snacks

  1. Rehydrate and replace electrolytes
  2. Refuel and replenish carbohydrates 

Since it’s hard to find opportunities to refuel and rehydrate during competition, athletes need to use their halftime break to eat or drink a quick halftime snack and rehydrate. This is especially true for stop and go or endurance events lasting more than 60 minutes and at high intensity.

Halftime snacks resupply available energy since energy stores may be depleted. Additionally, athletes should rehydrate to replace electrolytes lost through sweat. 

Goals for halftime snacks

What are good halftime snacks?

Good halftime snacks should provide about 30-60 g of carbohydrates since this amount has been shown to improve performance. (1)

You want to eat something that provides enough carbohydrates to maintain your blood glucose levels but that doesn’t cause GI distress. Because every athlete is different, you’ll want to try different foods to see what works best for you. 

Sports drinks for carbohydrate and fluids

Some athletes find that it too hard to consume food during an activity. In this case, drinking a sports drink containing sodium can be helpful. Research has shown that the combination of sodium and glucose (sugar) enhance absorption and improve the desire to drink. (2)

Sports drinks that have 6-8% carbohydrate concentration as well as sodium and other electrolytes have been shown to be effective at both replacing carbohydrates and rehydrating to avoid dehydration. (3)

You should drink about 20-40 oz of a sports drink each hour. If possible, keep your water bottle near the sideline so you can take a few gulps every 10-15 minutes or when stoppage time allows. 

What should athletes eat at halftime

Good options for halftime snacks include:

  • Pretzels
  • Crackers
  • Goldfish crackers
  • Animal crackers
  • Granola bars
  • Dried fruit–dates, mangos, pineapple
  • Fresh fruit–oranges, bananas, grapes and watermelon 
  • Applesauce
  • Sports drinks
  • Gummies
  • Sport chews

What to avoid for halftime snacks

Excess carbohydrates and high fructose. Since your body can only digest carbohydrates at the rate of about 60 g/hr, more carbohydrates are not better. In fact, eating too much can delay digestion and cause GI symptoms. (4)

Additionally, fructose slows digestion and can cause an upset stomach, so athletes should avoid foods high in fructose for halftime snacks. Some fruits have higher fructose levels, so you may want to test how your body responds during a practice but never try a new food during a game. 

High fiber foods. Eating foods high in fiber can slow digestion and cause cramping, bloating and stomach discomfort. Halftime snacks low in fiber are advised. Fiber is essential for athletes and you can make sure to meet your daily fiber needs outside of your competitions and games.

High fat foods. Foods high in fat can also cause GI discomfort as they are slower to digest. 

Make a plan for halftime

Snacks at halftime are a key part of your game day performance nutrition plan. Test foods and sports drinks to see works best for you. You should choose easily digestible snacks that are low in fiber, fat and protein.

What’s your favorite halftime snack?

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