What an athlete eats every day has a big effect on how they perform. What an athlete eats before a game has a huge effect on how they perform. The purpose of the pre-game meal is to provide the body with an ongoing fuel source which will power the athlete through the demands and requirements of the competition. This is primarily done by preventing significant drops in blood sugar during competition. The athlete's blood sugar is simply the amount of glucose (sugar) present in the blood stream. These glucose molecules are great to have available during exercise as they are quickly and easily taken up by the cells of the body where they can effectively be used to energize on-going exercise. If an athlete's blood sugar levels drop to low during competition their ability to recover and perform is significantly impaired. The body will feel fatigued and sluggish as it struggles to create glucose from other substances within the body which is a slower and much less efficient process.

 This means that an athlete's pre-game meal should include primarily food with high carbohydrate content as they are most easily broken down into glucose which as we know is responsible for keeping blood sugar at adequate levels to fuel high-level performance and manage fatigue.It is important to understand that not all carbohydrates are created equal. Avoid super sugary foods before competition in fact avoid super sugary foods almost all of the time as they will lead to huge upswings in blood sugar levels followed by giant drops or crashes, often leaving the athlete feeling worse than before. Athletes should choose carbohydrates which are slower to digest which in turn will provide a steady flow of energy to the muscles without the crash.Protein should also be a part of an athlete's pre-game meal. The protein will provide the body the ability to repair and replenish broken down muscles. This will promote quicker recovery and minimize the amount of muscle breakdown which occurs during strenuous exercise. Athletes should avoid high-fat protein sources as the excess fat will work against them during competition.

In addition to eating quality food sources prior to competition an athlete needs to stay hydrated. We all know the importance of hydration but do we know how much it can actually impair our performance? For starters up to 70% of every cell in the body is composed of water; we have trillions of cells within our bodies and when they are not adequately hydrated functioning at at a high level is quite difficult. Even minor dehydration impairs alertness, ability to concentrate, tiredness and performance capacity. Staying adequately hydrated is one of easiest things an athlete can do to help themselves. Muscle cramping is probably caused by fatigue and poor conditioning but is also affected by the loss of fluids and electrolytes. Without adequate electrolytes in our system muscles ability to contract is significantly compromised. This is a no-brainer and there is no excuse for being dehydrated as an athlete drink your fluids and stay hydrated.

The Game Plan

Purpose of the Pre Game Meal

• Maintain steady blood sugar levels during exercise, preventing second half crashes

• Help to keep the body hydrated

• Provide a steady flow of carbohydrates to the muscles to fuel athletic movements

• Prevent hunger


• To limit the chance of upsetting your stomach only eat foods you know you handle well, pre-game is not the time to try something new. Minimize foods that cause gas or bloating or anything else you know gives you problems.

• Allow adequate time for food to digest. Give yourself at least two hours.

• Continue to consume liquids avoiding pops and other sugary soft drinks and caffeine containing beverages.

• Limit high-fat foods before competition as they take longer to digest and will leave you sluggish and tired.

• The pre-game meal should consist of high-carbohydrate, moderate protein and low-fat.


>2 hours from game-time• Grilled chicken breast sandwich on whole wheat bun, no mayo with mixed fruit.

• Baked potato with salsa (no mayo, cheese or bacon), w/ turkey sandwich

• Whole wheat pasta with chicken and low fat marinara sauce.

• Oatmeal mixed with blueberries and glass of milk• Low fat Subway or Jimmy John's sandwich on whole grain or multi grain bread with multiple vegetables with pretzels.

<2 hours from game-time

• Banana• Smoothie

• Energy or granola bar

• (3:1) carbohydrate to protein shake

• Crackers


• 2 hours before= 2 cups

• 10-20 minutes before= 1 cup

• Every 10-20 minutes during exercise= 1 cup

• Do not depend on sports drinks to hydrate you right before game time. Your body can only absorb a limited amount of fluid every hour so if you are thirsty it is too late to fix it, you are already dehydrated.

Taking advantage of pre-competition nutrition is not difficult or complicated take advantage of it and stay fueled from start to finish.