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Kids eat more calories in post-game snacks than they burn during the game

A study led by Brigham Young University public health researchers finds the number of calories kids consume from post-game snacks far exceeds the number of calories they actually burn playing in the game. "Kids are getting inundated with snack culture all the time – celebrations at school, at birthday parties and youth sports games," said senior study author and BYU professor Lori Spruance. "We don't need to load children up with sugar after a game too."

For the study, Spruance and her students observed 3rd and 4th graders over 189 games of soccer, flag football, baseball and softball, tracking both their physical activity and the treats they consumed. They found parents brought post-game snacks 80% of the time, with almost 90% of the post-game drinks being sugar sweetened. Physical activity was tracked using the SOFIT method, wherein a child's activity was tracked on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 = nothing; 5 = running) every 10 seconds.

The researchers found the average energy expenditure for children observed was 170 calories per game while the average caloric intake from post-game snacks was 213 calories. The average amount of sugar consumed post game was a staggering 26.4 grams — the total daily recommendation for kids is just 25 grams — with sugary drinks being the biggest culprits. (Capri Sun drinks and Kool-Aid Jammers were the most common drinks and baked goods were the most common snacks.)

The study also found children averaged just 27 minutes of activity per game, with soccer players being the most active and softball players being the least active. Research shows children should have 60 minutes of physical activity per day starting around age 5. Study authors said the 43 extra calories the children are gaining may not sound like much, but if kids are playing a game or two a week, it could mean thousands of extra sugary calories a year.

"So many kids are at games just to get their treat afterwards, which really isn't helping to develop healthy habits long term," Spruance said. "The reward should be, 'I got to have fun, I got to run around with my friend or score a goal.'"

Spruance and co-authors said youth sports programs would benefit from an intervention aimed at the food environment – and they're happy to help with that intervention. To that end, the team is already working on their next study by providing fact sheets about the troubles with current post-game snacks to municipal Parks and Recreation departments. Those departments are then, in turn, sharing the information with parents.
Initial efforts in one city have already shown marked decreases in the number of unhealthy snacks being provided at youth games: 16% of snacks in a new season of tracking included water instead of a sugary beverage, and parents who brought fruits and vegetables increased from 3% to 15% overall.

"Little changes can make a big difference in promoting healthy body weights in our children," wrote study co-author Jay Maddock, a professor of public health at Texas A&M University. "So, when your children are playing sports, we recommend making the healthy choice and choosing water, fruits and vegetables and a healthy protein source too, like nuts."

Objectives: Childhood obesity rates remain high. The youth sports environment is an opportunity to combat obesity. The purpose of this study was to determine the types of beverages/ snacks provided at youth sports and determine associations between energy consumption and expenditure.
Methods: This cross-sectional study observed 4 different sports in a youth sports league (N = 189). The System for Observing Fitness Instruction Time (SOFIT) was used to quantify physical activity. Food environmental scans were used to quantify caloric intake. A t-test was conducted to examine differences between energy consumption and expenditure. We conducted a separate analysis for games that did not offer snacks/beverages.
Results: The average energy expenditure was 170.3 calories per game; males were more physically active than females. The average caloric content was 213.3 calories for games that did not offer snacks/beverages and average sugar provided was 26.4 grams per game. The majority of sugar came from sugar-sweetened beverages.

Conclusions: Calorie intake was higher than expenditure. Children were consuming more sugar in one game than daily recommendations. Youth sports would benefit from an intervention aimed at the food environment.

Natalie Bennion, Lori Andersen Spruance, Jay E Maddock

[link url=""]Brigham Young University material[/link]

[link url=";jsessionid=1qtbohrter0jo.x-ic-live-03"]American Journal Youth Behaviour abstract[/link]

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