Not all pre-game meals are created equal, and athletes’ nutritional needs vary depending on the sport they play. Strength athletes have different needs than endurance athletes—and both fuel differently from those who play football or baseball. But regardless of your sport, it’s always important to put down a solid pre-game meal.
Check out this simple, flexible option from Leslie Bonci, R.D., director of sports nutrition at the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine and a nutrition consultant to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Feel free to adjust it to meet your personal nutritional needs.
For all athletes:
½ package of cheese tortellini
1C of spaghetti sauce
1C of green beans
Yogurt parfait: 8 oz. of fruit-flavored yogurt mixed with ¼C of granola
12 oz. glass of water or lemonade
For endurance athletes who need extra carbs, add:
A slice of bread
Lemonade instead of water
For strength athletes who need more protein for muscle growth and maintenance, add:
3 oz. of chicken breast or a small piece of fish
½C extra lean ground meat or ground turkey in spaghetti sauce
Water instead of lemonade
For weight-conscious athletes, use:
½ package of light tortellini
Light yogurt [100 calories] with 2 Tbsp. of granola
Water, flavored water or artificially-sweetened lemonade
Confused? Here are three simple rules to follow for a pre-game meal:
Don’t try new foods, sports drinks or energy bars.
An hour before a game is not a good time to experiment, because you don’t know how your body will react to a food it’s never digested before. Same goes for sports drinks or energy bars. Stick with familiar products.
Don’t eat fried or greasy foods.
Not only are they high in fat and low in nutritional value, they also take longer to digest, and the process might make you lethargic, which is the last thing you need before a big game. Avoid finger foods like chicken tenders, even though they’re high in protein.
Don’t overdo it on fiber.
Fiber is usually great for athletes, since it helps the body digest protein. And with so many athletes following high-protein diets, it’s a must—just not before a game. Foods high in fiber, like beans or broccoli, can lead to indigestion, another thing you don’t need to worry about before gametime.