Nutrition is one of the most critical keys to performance but for some reason it seems to be one that gets swept under the rug.
It’s about time to pick up the rug and start focusing on this crucial ingredient to success. In high school before EVERY game I would go to Subway and get a foot-long turkey sandwich and Cheetos, and then I would walk next door to Starbucks to get a Carmel Frappuccino to wash it down. And before EVERY game I felt sick, but I thought it was my nerves…looking back it could have had something to do with 64g of sugar 100mg of caffeine, the bag of Cheetos, and the sandwich twice the size of what I needed that I had just ingested. But my coach asked us what we were eating before games, and I told him, and he never gave it a second thought so neither did I.
The proper pregame meal will supply you with some energy, but it will not supply you with all the energy you need, so proper nutrition is crucial all the time, not just a few hours before game time (sorry, time to enforce good nutrition all the time!). The main focus of pregame meals is to avoid hunger during the game, stabilize blood sugar levels, and hydrate. Food affects everyone differently, so there is not one catch all perfect pregame meal but there are choices that are smarter than others.
Some good guidelines to follow are:
- Make sure you have time to digest! 3 hours before game time is a good amount of time, don’t eat so far out that you’re hungry right as the game starts, or at half time.
- Make sure the meal is high in starch, it is easy to digest and helps steady the blood sugar levels.
- Don’t go protein crazy! Protein, protein, protein, is pounded into athlete’s heads, but protein can take a long time to digest and may lead to increased urine production which will in turn leave you dehydrated.
- Go easy of fats and oils; they take a long time to digest as well.
- Avoid sugar (i.e. a Grande Caramel Frappuccino) sugar causes rapid energy swings in blood-sugar levels and leaves you with low blood sugar and less energy. That sugar may give you a feeling of energy for a second but it won’t last long and will ultimately leave you worse off than before it.
- Avoid caffeine. There goes my caramel Frappuccino again, it’s a wonder I ever even made it through a game!
- Hydrate! I could write pages on hydration but for now let’s just say how important it is, so drink up!!
Here are a couple suggestions for a pregame meal that should satisfy these guidelines
- Pasta (as plain as possible, its ok to add a little sauce but go easy on it, cheese, and meat)
- Starchy Vegetables (potato, squash, green beans, etc.)
- Bread (rolls and bagels are great options. Toast and with a LITTLE peanut butter is great!)
- Deli Sandwiches (heavier with vegetables than meat and light on spread)
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