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Pre-game Meals

As Fall sports are upon us, planning pre-game meals to optimize performance takes center stage. Keep in mind that there are a few general rules to keeping athletes well fueled.

  • Dehydration is a performance buster. Weight loss of 2-3% of body weight can negatively impact performance. This is equal to a weight loss of about 3.5 pounds for an athlete weighing 180 pounds. So the day of the game, athletes should begin drinking staring about 4 hours prior to competition. The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Dietetic Association’s Position Paper on Nutrition and Athletic Performance. The amount of recommended fluid would vary depending on the age but for adolescents this would equal about 16 ounces of fluid. This allows for rehydration (as long as the athlete is not significantly dehydrated) and excretion of extra fluid. Keep in mind that fruits and vegetables are 90% water and can be viewed as the water that you chew!
  • Pre-game jitters are common and the hormones that give you “butterflies” in your stomach also make the food leave your stomach slowly. For this reason, pre-game meals should focus on the two most important components of a good sports nutrition plan: carbohydrate and fluid
  • Although popular diets discourage the use of carbohydrates, it is the fuel the muscles and your brain rely on for performance. If you are a parent or a fan, you don’t need a carbohydrate rich meal but your athlete does.
  • Before exercise or competition, the meal should ideally be focused on hydration, be somewhat lower in fat and fiber to avoid stomach distention or diarrhea. An example would be:
    • A sub type sandwich made with a lean meat, lettuce and tomato, little to no mayo, pretzels, apple slices and lemonade
    • Pasta with grilled chicken and marinara sauce, green beans, fruit salad and low fat milk
    • Greasy foods such as pizza, lasagna and sandwiches with high fat meat, cheese and mayo can cause nausea
    • It is NOT good nutrition if it ends up on your shoes!

Remember, carbohydrate is the fuel of exercising muscle and low carb diets will cause fatigue and are not indicated.