When you’re at a concession stand for a quick bite, make sure you choose right. University of Miami sports nutritionist Lisa Dorfman provides some insightful picks to prevent making your stomach sick.
“When you know that you are going to be eating concession food, you can plan on likely getting more fat than you normally would—[and] more sugar,” Dorfman says. To avoid putting your performance at risk, she advises mixing and matching foods from the limited options available.
For instance, the ever-popular pizza isn’t such a poor choice. In fact, she says, “When it comes to hot dogs and pizza at the concession stand, I favor the pizza. It really comes down to how many slices of that pizza you’re consuming. Limit it to two slices and get yourself a baked pretzel on the side.” Such carb-loaded eats provide an immediate energy boost and help your body burn fat instead of protein, which you need during activity. “You don’t want to be…breaking down protein for energy or calories because the system falls apart. You get injuries; you see stress fractures,” Dorfman says.
Dodging injuries, strengthening your immune system and building muscles are why you need sufficient protein in your diet, according to Dorfman. So when you’re at a concession stand, order any meats that will serve those purposes. “If chicken is breaded [or] fried, don’t go for it, because you’re probably getting a lot more breading than actual meat,” Dorfman says. Instead, she advises going for grilled options when available, or a sub sandwich with “two to three stacks of playing cards worth of meat, about six to nine ounces. If you are competing in less than two hours, cut portions in half.”
Other concession staples favored by Dorfman include fruit, boiled peanuts, even popcorn “as long as you don’t butter it up.”
Hoping for some sweets on that list? Dorfman suggests Gummi Bears. “Yes, they are pure sugar, but they kick into the muscle system and energy system pretty quickly, and you’ll use it and burn it off in no time,” she says. As for chocolate, Dorfman suggests leaving it as eye candy.
Another sugar-loaded item you should can is soda—game time or any time. Dorfman notes that a typical can of soda packs about 10 teaspoons of sugar, along with about 100 milligrams of caffeine, which can leave you jittery on the court. She adds, “The concern I have about sodas in general…is the compounds. The phosphates could draw calcium out of the bones. Certainly, if you’re relying on sodas for re-hydration, it’s a really poor hydration system because the bubbly compromises how much you absorb of the fluid.”
A better option is bottled water, which you can drink right up to the start of your event. During activity, Dorfman recommends downing four to six ounces of fluid—a couple of gulps—every 15 minutes. If you’ll be competing longer than an hour, go for a sports drink like Gatorade, because your body will need sugars and electrolytes.