Whether you’re up two in an important soccer match, won your first game in a double-header or heading into intermission during hockey playoffs, chances are your body is feeling the stress of the hard work you’ve been putting out. While refueling at halftime may be far from your mind, having a mid-game snack can help you sustain your energy for that next round, allowing you to continue putting forth your best effort. (See how it helped Landon Donovan win an MLS Cup!)
Just as you make sure to get all your gear together in advance, take the time to plan your meals and snacks the night before games. It will guarantee you’ll be ready to go when the whistle blows. Here are some guidelines and tips to keep in mind for next time.
Carbohydrates for Quick Energy
Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of fuel, because they break down quickly to provide glucose to your muscles and brain and keep you energized and focused. You want to choose low-fiber carbohydrates. They are easier on your stomach because of how quickly they break down. (Why you shouldn’t avoid carbs.)
- Mini bagels
- Energy chews
- Low-sugar sports drink
Pair Carbs With Protein
Carbs are great for quick energy, but the body uses them up fast. Pair your carbs with protein to keep you going for the rest of the game. (Learn how much you need.)
- Turkey to your bagel
- Pair the pretzels/fruit with peanut butter
Don’t like those choices? Try:
- Eating a protein bar
- Or choose a recovery drink with protein, like Gatorade Protein Recovery Drink
Low Fat For Easy Digestion
Be careful of choosing anything high in saturated fats such as dairy or high-fat meat. Fat takes longer to break down and can often cause stomach cramps or nausea.
- Cheese or other milk products
- Baked goods with butter
- Fatty meats (no concession stand hot dogs or burgers!)
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Adequate hydration is the most important part of mid-game fueling. Dehydration can cause fatigue, muscle spasms and lack of focus. During your game you are encouraged to drink 16 to 24 ounces of fluid per hour and to properly hydrate before and after. A good way to test if you are hydrated is to weigh yourself before and after exercise to make sure you are within one or two pounds of your pre-game weight and ensure that you did not lose a lot of water.
Know Warning Signs
Pay attention to your body when you are in the game. Notice if you feel dizzy, nauseous or unusually hot, or if you experience a muscle cramp. These are signs of dehydration and lack of fuel. Don’t be afraid to ask for a sub! Grab an energy gel and drink some water, then wait until you feel yourself before checking back into the game. Keeping track of your food and water intake can also help you see trends on whether you didn’t eat or drink enough on game day.