Q: Sometimes my legs feel heavy when I step onto the field. How can I prevent this?
A: Every athlete has experienced this: You pump up for the game, start warming up, and suddenly find that your legs feel like lead weights. In fact, everything you do feels twice as hard as it should. Now the upcoming game seems like it’ll be a serious challenge.
It is hard to say with 100% accuracy what causes heavy legs, but often that slow and sluggish feeling can be attributed to improper fueling. Your best bet? Protect against fueling foul-ups with a comprehensive plan that starts well before your game.
The Night Before
The night before the game—during the team dinner, if your squad has one—sets the stage for game-day nutrition. You may be tempted to stuff your face with pepperoni pizza or chicken wings, but what you should really be looking for are quality carbs, lean proteins and some healthy fats. A good option is whole-wheat pasta with grilled salmon, along with a salad or veggies. Eat until you’re full, but don’t go all “scavenger mode” and chow down everything on the table. You might find yourself stuck on the couch in a food coma—one that could linger in your legs come game time.
On game day, carefully plan your meals to ensure your body has the fuel it needs with sufficient time to digest it before you step on the field. It’s best to consume about 150 to 200 grams of easy-to-digest carbs and about 20 grams of lean protein about three hours before the game. A grilled chicken breast sandwich on wheat bread with a side of fruit is an effective and convenient option. (See Put Together a Perfect Gameday Meal.)
The final piece of the puzzle is a pre-game snack that you consume about 15 minutes before you head out under the lights. The snack should contain about 100 calories of fast-acting carbs, and ideally have some electrolytes to help protect against cramping. Gatorade Prime 01 is formulated specifically for this purpose. If you don’t have access to the product, a banana or a handful of pretzels will work.