What to Eat Before a Game | STACK
X

Become a Better Athlete. Sign Up for our FREE Newsletter.

What to Eat Before a Game

November 11, 2010

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...
Must See
Jadeveon Clowney on Making Big Hits
Views: 4,283,761
Antonio Brown Juggles 3 Footballs
Views: 1,187,889
Skylar Diggins Attacks the Off-Season On and Off the Court
Views: 4,985,994

Featured Videos

Elite Performance with Mike Boyle: Recover Faster With this Simple Technique Views: 11,358
John Wall Elbow-to-Elbow Shooting Drill Views: 187,524
Abby Wambach Power and Stability Workout Views: 300,640
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

Paul Rabil's Box Jumps
Views: 846,993
Greg Nixon's Hill Training Program
Views: 704,420
Tobin Heath Closed-Space Dribbling
Views: 1,170,687
Colin Kaepernick's Core Workout
Views: 880,747
Margus Hunt Benches 385 Pounds for Five Reps
Views: 19,660,170

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

5 Foods That Are Stunningly High in Sodium

12 Foods Every Athlete Should Eat

Fuel Up Fast With 4 Smoothies From the New York Giants

The Boston Cannons'

4 'Bad Foods' That Might be Good for You

5 Nutritional Power Combos for Athletes

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

5 Non-Boring Ways To Eat Chicken

10 Easy Ways to Eat Real Food

Why You Need Dietary Fiber

You Should Eat the Peel of These 12 Fruits and Vegetables

5 Ways Junk Food Can Mess With Your Head

Vegetarian Athlete Tips: Olympic Swimmer Kate Ziegler

How Friends and Family Affect Your Food Choices

Living Near Fast Food Could Increase Your Odds of Obesity

A Sneaky Food Additive Athletes Should Avoid

Healthy Makeovers for 3 Classic Meals

Healthy (and Unhealthy) BBQ Ideas For Athletes

10 Athlete-Approved, High-Protein Healthy Cereals

7 Foods That Are Ruining Your Workouts

Healthy Eating at Restaurants: Decoding a Diner Menu

Load Up on These Foods at Your Backyard Barbecue

How Undereating Can Make You Gain Weight

The Case for Red Meat

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

The Best Foods for Digestive Health

Salad Showdown: Which Greens Are the Healthiest?

11 Food Services That Deliver Ready-Made Nutritious Meals

5 Protein-Packed Recovery Shakes

Spice Up Your Healthy Cooking With These Lively Combos

How to Eat Organic Without Breaking the Bank

5 'Good Foods' That Might Be Bad for You

5 Healthy Foods That Got a Bad Rap

6 Healthy Foods You're Overeating

3 Fruits and 3 Vegetables Athletes Must Eat

Terrible Toppings: The 5 Worst Things We Put on Food

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

The Healthiest (And Unhealthiest) Ways to Eat Chicken

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

5 Delicious Ways to Make Junk Food Less Junky

6 Eating Mistakes That Undo Your Workouts

Why You Should Always Say No to Diet Foods

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

Where the Paleo Diet Falls Short

9 Athlete-Approved Peanut Butter Sandwiches

How Marc Gasol Got Better by Overhauling His Diet

Are You Eating Too Much Protein?

The 6 Worst Foods for Athletes

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