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Kat Barefield: Recommends Meal Replacement Shakes/Smoothies Before And After Exercise

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As Sports Nutrition Month at MomsTEAM approaches its midway point,  today we hear from sports nutritionist, certified personal trainer, certified wellness coach, and mother of two, Kat Barefield:

MomsTEAM: Tell us a little about yourself and why you wanted to get into sports nutrition?

Kate Barfield

Barefield:  I was a competitive athlete growing up, and I've always loved sports so I got my Bachelor's degree in Athletic Training.  I wanted to learn more about how athletes excel and have always been interested in nutrition, so, after I worked a few years, I went back to earn a Master's Degree in Sports Nutrition and became a registered dietitian. I've worked in the fitness and sports for the past 15 years and my 15-year-old son has played various sports since an early age. So I've been fortunate enough to apply what I've learned personally and professionally. It's wonderful helping people maximize their talent, hard work and potential with proper nutrition. It truly makes a difference in how the athlete feels physically and mentally - they're able to perform better, focus more and recover faster. It's an edge that all athletes thrive on.

MomsTEAM: What do you recommend sports-active kids eat for breakfast?

Barefield: Breakfast is important for all kids, but is especially critical for sports-active kids because they expend more energy and need more calories and nutrients to fuel activity while supporting normal growth and development. A balanced meal with mostly carbs to fuel activity, and moderate amounts of protein and fat to support their immune system and muscle growth and repair, is best.

Some easy choices for us busy moms include:

  • Whole grain cereal with milk and fruit 
  • Egg sandwich: whole wheat toast or English muffin with an egg cooked in the microwave and a slice of low-fat cheese, paired with fruit
  • Yogurt mixed with high-fiber cereal (like Fiber-One) and berries
  • Smoothies using a balanced meal-replacement formula, milk, ice, peanut butter and banana (or other favorite fruit)

If I'm really in a hurry, I'll put whole grain cereal in a plastic baggy (I love Cracklin Oat Bran and Quaker Squares), milk in a shaker bottle and whatever fruit we have on hand.

MomsTEAM: Do you think youth and high school athletes need supplements? If yes, which ones?

Barefield: I think kids should take a safe, quality multivitamin to fill the nutrient gaps in their diet. No one eats perfectly all the time and this is a simple way to ensure certain nutrient needs are met. The type, amount and timing of meals are particularly critical throughout puberty, when nutrition can make its greatest contribution to a youth athlete's future overall physical stature as an adult, and getting the optimal amounts of key nutrients is extremely important. I also believe that youth athletes benefit from consuming a carbohydrate- and protein-containing meal replacement shakes/smoothies before and after exercise, since research shows doing so helps to (1) top off muscle fuel stores needed during activity, (2) replenish muscle stores after activity, and (3) support muscle repair and growth. The liquid form allows the nutrients to be rapidly absorbed and digested, which is important pre- and post-exercise. The body has a certain window of opportunity approximately an hour after exercise during which nutrient uptake is optimal, so timing is also key.

MomsTEAM: What is the best snack to pack in a sports-active kid's school backpack or gym bag?

Barefield: The "best" snack for an active kid is one that provides the nutrients needed to fuel activity and that fits the child's preferences. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches work because the bread provides the carbs needed to fuel muscles and it has some protein and fat, which will help sustain energy levels. Trail mix, whole grain cereal or crackers in a baggy and fruit also work well, but don't forget to pack fluids since kids' thirst mechanisms tend to be underdeveloped. Water is fine in most cases, but a sports drink is better for longer periods of activity (greater than an hour), hot or humid climates, and multiple workouts in a day.

MomsTEAM: What is a quick and easy dinner to make for a family meal after an afternoon practice or game?

Barefield: I love to make steamed rice, grilled salmon, steamed veggies and fresh fruit, whatever is in season. Everything is ready in 20 minutes. I have a small rice cooker which is super easy, since all you do is press a button, and you can steam green beans, broccoli, snow 

Raw salmon filets

peas, etc. in a few minutes in the microwave. Just rinse and add a tablespoon or two of water beforehand. Season with a little olive oil, garlic powder, pepper and fresh lemon. The salmon contains omega-3 fats, which helps athletes control inflammation from exercise. You can season with a little sea salt, pepper, dill and lemon or use a prepared teriyaki sauce, which kids love. Rinse some red grapes, strawberries or dice a melon and you've got a healthful, balanced and delicious meal.

MomsTEAM: How have you helped a young athlete?

Barefield: My son has played sports since he was 5. He's played soccer, football, baseball and started as a freshman on his high school varsity basketball team last year (2011) . Throughout his lifetime, I've taught him the importance of making good food choices, timing his meals so he performs his best and recovers as quickly as possible, and taking a daily multivitamin to fill in for anything missing. I'm thrilled to share that he already holds scholarship offers from three Division 1 colleges, and he will be the first to tell you that proper nutrition has been key to this process. He hasn't arrived yet, but helping him get the chance to earn a degree while playing a sport he loves at a high level is something I'm proud of as a nutrition professional, but mostly as a mom!


Kat Barefield, MS, RD, ACSM-HFS, NASM-CPT, PES, CES is a registered dietitian, certified personal trainer, certified wellness coach and mother of two. She has been helping people reach their health, fitness, athletic performance and weight management goals for nearly 15 years. She holds a bachelor's of science degree in athletic training and a master's of science degree in sports nutrition. Kat is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and is a certified personal trainer by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). Kat's is also a NASM performance enhancement specialist (PES), corrective exercise specialist (CES), and certified health and fitness specialist (HFS) from the American College of Sports Medicine.  She has been a featured guest on the Dr. Oz show and has co-hosted live webinars with Dr. Oz, Dr. Mike Clarke, Brad Lamm and Dominique Adair. She is currently the lead registered dietitian and wellness coach for dotFIT, a California-based fitness and nutrition company. She works with celebrities, athletes and weight loss clients, and writes for various organizations including the National Academy of Sports Medicine and UFC magazine. Kat's personal mission is to inspire and empower people to achieve their fitness, wellness and athletic goals using practical and evidence-based nutrition and lifestyle principles and practices.