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Many young athletes consume more calories post-game than they burn during the game, study finds

Those extra calories can add up over time and lead to poor health outcomes

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Parents of young children often try to get them involved in youth sports as a way to stay healthy and get exercise, but many of the snacks that are given out after a game is over can negate the health benefits.

Researchers from Brigham Young University say that the calories in some post-game treats like sugary drinks and sweet snacks can eclipse the calorie-burn that most children experience during a competition. The team found that the amount of sugar consumed after a game can often exceed daily recommended guidelines.

"Kids are getting inundated with snack culture all the time -- celebrations at school, at birthday parties and youth sports games," said senior study author Lori Spruance. "We don't need to load children up with sugar after a game too."

Sugary snacks add calories

To come to their conclusions, the researchers studied third and fourth graders who participated in nearly 200 youth soccer, flag football, baseball, and softball games. They found that parents brought post-game snacks around 80 percent of the time, and 90 percent of those snacks were sugar-sweetened.

On average, the researchers calculated that these young athletes burned 170 calories per game, but that was eclipsed by an average 213 consumed calories from snacks and drinks after the game was over. While that might not sound like much per game, those numbers can add up if kids participate in multiple contests per week over a season.

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

"Little changes can make a big difference in promoting healthy body weights in our children," added study co-author Jay Maddock. "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."

The full study has been published in the Journal of Health Behavior.

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