The standard student-athlete diet is not right for athletes with sucrose intolerance. These important diet tips will help you fuel your student athlete’s success.
Carbohydrate-rich foods provide the perfect fuel for individuals performing most types of physical activity since they are easily digested and used by the body during exercise. Foods like pasta, pretzels, and potatoes are often viewed as a prime source of fuel for athletes before, during, and after competitions. For those with sucrose intolerance, fueling for physical activity poses a unique challenge and takes proper planning.
The body needs carbohydrates to fuel working muscles and prevent fatigue. Poor nutritional intake before or during physical activity can result in premature fatigue, which can compromise performance. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that young athletes should consume ample carbohydrates, fats, and protein every day1. Carbohydrate recommendations vary depending on the intensity of the physical activity. For young athletes engaging in moderate- or heavy-intensity exercise, it is suggested they take in 5 to 8 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight. Moderate or heavy intensity exercise includes activities like tennis, bicycling, running, basketball, swimming, football, skating, dancing, and rowing.
Low-Sucrose Foods for Before Physical Activity
Food groups high in carbohydrates include grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. Research indicates that meals should be consumed at least three hours before an event and snacks should be ingested one to two hours before an event. Typical pre-event meals consist of high-sucrose foods like sandwiches, oatmeal, or pasta. While these foods would not be suitable for a young athlete with sucrose intolerance, also known as congenital sucrase-isomaltase deficiency (CSID), many options for pre-event meals or snacks that are low in sucrose are available, including the ones listed below.
- Sucrose-free, low-fat cottage cheese with strawberries and two pieces of sucrose-free breakfast sausage
- Scrambled eggs with diced, summer squash, a side of mixed berries, and a glass of fat-free milk
- A fruit smoothie made with low-fat milk, mixed berries, and sucrose-free plain Greek yogurt
While carbohydrates are often in the spotlight when discussing sports nutrition, some research indicates that fat may be the preferred fuel for young athletes. It is suggested that athletes consume 25 to 30 percent of their total calories from fat, which equates to 55 to 66 grams of fat per day for an individual on a 2,000 calorie diet. Fats from healthy food sources like avocado, eggs, olive oil, seafood, nut butters, and nuts are some of the most beneficial.
Low-Sucrose Foods for During Physical Activity
Protein is also an essential part of an athlete’s diet since it helps rebuild muscles that break down during activity. Protein is especially important in the recovery phase after physical activity is complete. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends a minimum of 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. For a person weighing 150 pounds, this equates to 95 grams or a quarter pound of protein per day. Lean protein like chicken breast, lean beef, turkey breast, and seafood are the best choices for aiding in the athlete’s recovery.
Research also suggests that carbohydrate replenishment during activity may be beneficial depending on event duration. For competitions lasting more than 60 minutes, a young athlete may benefit from consuming carbohydrates while competing. Typically, foods consumed during an activity include energy chews, sports drinks, and bananas. While these foods are high in sucrose, it is possible to eat low-sucrose foods during competitions with a bit of planning. Those with sucrose intolerance should choose low-sucrose carbohydrates like the following:
- Sucrose-free, plain, low-fat yogurt topped with mixed berries
- 1 cup of grapes
- Homemade trail mix made with currants or raisins, peanuts, and sliced almonds
- Kiwi, which is low in sucrose and high in potassium, which can help prevent or ease muscle cramps during exercise
Low-Sucrose Foods for After Physical Activity
While fueling before and during physical activity is important, it is equally important to fuel correctly after activity. Post-event meals should include protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Wholesome post-event meals for those with sucrose intolerance include:
- A chicken breast stir-fried with peppers, broccoli, and asparagus with a side of grapes and a glass of low-fat milk
- Turkey and cheese lettuce wraps with a side of cucumbers
- A grab-and-go meal like a hard-boiled egg, peanuts, grapes, and a carton of low-fat plain milk
Nutrition choices leading up to competitions and athletic events can make or break a young athlete’s performance. For those with sugar intolerance, low-sucrose carbohydrate choices, healthy fats, and lean proteins are key components of the diet. While fueling up correctly with sucrose intolerance can be challenging, it is possible with proper planning!
Spear BA. Nutrition management of the child athlete. In: Nevin-Folino NL (ed). Pediatric Manual of Clinical Dietetics, 2nd edition. Chicago, Ill:American Dietetic Association; 2003.
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