What to Eat Before a Game

Must See Nutrition Videos

For an athlete, a proper pre-game or pre-activity meal must provide the body with the fuel it needs to perform—with an emphasis on carbohydrate intake. Of the body’s three fuel sources—carbs, protein and fat—carbs are the primary energy source for exercise. According to Cheryl Zonkowski, University of Florida football nutrition director, consuming carbs prepares athletes' muscles to work and helps sustain their performance throughout a full workout or game. She says, “Without carbs, your muscles can’t relax and contract ideally, and you’ll feel gassed.”

Zonkowski recommends eating a meal that’s easy to digest two to four hours before activity. It should be comprised of 50 percent carbs, a moderate amount of protein and limited fat. Then, 15 to 20 minutes before activity, eat a few simple carbs (e.g., fruit, crackers and pretzels) for fast-acting energy.

To complete pre-activity nutrition, hydrate properly. The body loses water through sweat, and it’s crucial to drink water or a sports drink like Gatorade to prevent dehydration. Studies have shown that dehydration can negatively impact strength, by up to 25 percent. To maintain fluid levels for peak performance, Zonkowski recommends following this hydration regimen:

  • Two hours prior: drink 20 oz. of water/sports drink
  • One hour prior: drink 16 oz. of water/sports drink
  • 15 minutes prior: drink 8 oz. of water/sports drink

Having sufficient energy is important, but athletes should not eat plate after plate of food before a game. Every athlete has to discover for himself what and when to consume before activity to keep his body adequately fueled and avoid performance-sabotaging stomach woes. But in general, it's best to avoid large portions and protein-rich or fatty foods—such as steak or fried foods. Zonkowski says, “If you eat too much too close to activity or consume foods that don’t sit well, you can have cramps, stomach sloshing or other gastrointestinal distress.”

Here are a few easy-to-digest pre-game meal options:

Pre-Game Meal Recipes
Perfect Pre-Game Eating
Pre-Game Energy Boosting Supplements

For more hydration tips and details about the role of sports drinks, click the links below:

Gametime Hydration Strategies
All-Day Hydration Game Plan
How to Assess Your Hydration Status
Hydration for the Heat
Formulating a Summer Hydration Plan

Andy Haley
- Andy Haley is the Performance Director at STACK. A certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS), he received his bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Miami...
Andy Haley
- Andy Haley is the Performance Director at STACK. A certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS), he received his bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Miami...

Featured Videos

Blake Griffin Interview and Cover Shoot Blake Griffin Interview and Cover Shoot Views: 588,664
Learn to Hit Open Three-Pointers With Damian Lillard's Baseline Drift Drill Learn to Hit Open Three-Pointers With Damian Lillard's Baseline Drift Drill Views: 241,761
Elite Performance With Mike Boyle: Teach Any Athlete How To Squat Properly Elite Performance With Mike Boyle: Teach Any Athlete How To Squat Properly Views: 284,490
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Dustin Pedroia on Training Dustin Pedroia on Training
Views: 10,920,844
Peyton Manning Dumbbell Bench With 80+ Pounds Peyton Manning Dumbbell Bench With 80+ Pounds
Views: 43,151,981
Robert Griffin III Pocket Presence QB Drill Robert Griffin III Pocket Presence QB Drill
Views: 6,866,164
Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night
Views: 6,099,366
Drew Brees Will Not Be Denied Drew Brees Will Not Be Denied
Views: 12,009,040

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like
6 Healthy Foods You're Overeating

6 Healthy Foods You're Overeating

4 'Bad Foods' That Might be Good for You

4 'Bad Foods' That Might be Good for You

9 Foods to Eat When You Want to Lose Fat

9 Foods to Eat When You Want to Lose Fat

5 Simple Food Swaps That Make Eating Out Healthier

5 Simple Food Swaps That Make Eating Out Healthier

7 Foods That Are Ruining Your Workouts

7 Foods That Are Ruining Your Workouts

5 Foods That Are Stunningly High in Sodium

5 Foods That Are Stunningly High in Sodium

How Marc Gasol Got Better by Overhauling His Diet

How Marc Gasol Got Better by Overhauling His Diet

Where the Paleo Diet Falls Short

Where the Paleo Diet Falls Short

5 Protein-Packed Recovery Shakes

5 Protein-Packed Recovery Shakes

Brown Rice vs. White Rice: Does It Really Matter?

Brown Rice vs. White Rice: Does It Really Matter?

11 Food Services That Deliver Ready-Made Nutritious Meals

11 Food Services That Deliver Ready-Made Nutritious Meals

5 Delicious Ways to Make Junk Food Less Junky

5 Delicious Ways to Make Junk Food Less Junky

3 Fruits and 3 Vegetables Athletes Must Eat

3 Fruits and 3 Vegetables Athletes Must Eat

5 Ways Junk Food Can Mess With Your Head

5 Ways Junk Food Can Mess With Your Head

12 Foods Every Athlete Should Eat

12 Foods Every Athlete Should Eat

You Should Eat the Peel of These 12 Fruits and Vegetables

You Should Eat the Peel of These 12 Fruits and Vegetables

6 Eating Mistakes That Undo Your Workouts

6 Eating Mistakes That Undo Your Workouts

Registered Dietitians Reveal Their Favorite Ways to Eat Fruit

Registered Dietitians Reveal Their Favorite Ways to Eat Fruit

Cookout Commandments: What to Eat (and Avoid) at Your Summer BBQ

Cookout Commandments: What to Eat (and Avoid) at Your Summer BBQ

Vegetarian Athlete Tips: Olympic Swimmer Kate Ziegler

Vegetarian Athlete Tips: Olympic Swimmer Kate Ziegler

5 'Good Foods' That Might Be Bad for You

5 'Good Foods' That Might Be Bad for You

STUDY: Eat More Fruits and Veggies, Live (Almost) Forever

STUDY: Eat More Fruits and Veggies, Live (Almost) Forever

5 Healthy Foods That Got a Bad Rap

5 Healthy Foods That Got a Bad Rap

5 'Healthy' Side Dishes That Are Worse Than French Fries

5 'Healthy' Side Dishes That Are Worse Than French Fries

Are You Eating Too Much Protein?

Are You Eating Too Much Protein?

Healthy Eating at Restaurants: Decoding a Diner Menu

Healthy Eating at Restaurants: Decoding a Diner Menu

Why You Should Say No to Diet Foods

Why You Should Say No to Diet Foods

The Grain Guide: How and Why to Use 8 Healthy Whole Grains

The Grain Guide: How and Why to Use 8 Healthy Whole Grains

Binge Eating Disorder and Athletes

Binge Eating Disorder and Athletes

A Sneaky Food Additive Athletes Should Avoid

A Sneaky Food Additive Athletes Should Avoid

How Friends and Family Affect Your Food Choices

How Friends and Family Affect Your Food Choices

How Undereating Can Make You Gain Weight

How Undereating Can Make You Gain Weight

How to Eat Healthy at a Dingy Sports Bar

How to Eat Healthy at a Dingy Sports Bar

9 Athlete-Approved Peanut Butter Sandwiches

9 Athlete-Approved Peanut Butter Sandwiches

The Best Foods for Digestive Health

The Best Foods for Digestive Health

Load Up on These Foods at Your Backyard Barbecue

Load Up on These Foods at Your Backyard Barbecue

Fuel Up Fast With 4 Smoothies From the New York Giants

Fuel Up Fast With 4 Smoothies From the New York Giants

Terrible Toppings: The 5 Worst Things We Put on Food

Terrible Toppings: The 5 Worst Things We Put on Food

Healthy Makeovers for 3 Classic Meals

Healthy Makeovers for 3 Classic Meals

Small Change, Big Difference: 5 Foods You Should Buy Organic

Small Change, Big Difference: 5 Foods You Should Buy Organic

The Boston Cannons' ‘Keep It Real’ Eating Plan

The Boston Cannons' 'Keep It Real' Eating Plan

The Healthiest (And Unhealthiest) Ways to Eat Chicken

The Healthiest (And Unhealthiest) Ways to Eat Chicken

The Cheat Meal Day: Why It's Not So Smart

The Cheat Meal Day: Why It's Not So Smart

10 Athlete-Approved High-Protein Cereals

10 Athlete-Approved High-Protein Cereals

Healthy (and Unhealthy) BBQ Ideas For Athletes

Healthy (and Unhealthy) BBQ Ideas For Athletes

Salad Showdown: Which Greens Are the Healthiest?

Salad Showdown: Which Greens Are the Healthiest?

What to Eat If You Hate Bananas

What to Eat If You Hate Bananas

YardBarker