Perfect Pre-Game Eating

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You destroyed a huge meal right before a game. Result: your stomach was heavy and you felt too sick and weighed down for competition. On the other hand, if you went to a game not having eaten for six hours, you didn't have enough energy to keep up with your opponents.

You need to find the delicate balance of what and when to eat and drink prior to activity to keep your body sufficiently fueled and avoid performance-sabotaging stomach woes.

A pre-activity meal gives your muscles access to carbs, your primary energy source. According to Cheryl Zonkowski, University of Florida football nutrition director, consuming carbs prepares your muscles to work and helps maintain your performance throughout a full workout or game. "Without carbs, your muscles can't relax and contract ideally, and you'll feel gassed," she says.

Avoid the temptation of large portions and protein-rich or fatty foods. "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," Zonkowski says. She 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 simple carbs (e.g., fruit, crackers or pretzels) for fast-acting energy.

To complete your pre-activity nutrition, hydrate properly. Your body loses water when you sweat, so it's crucial to drink water or a sports drink, like Gatorade, to help prevent dehydration. Follow these pre-activity fluid guidelines:
Two hours prior
20 ounces
One hour prior
16 ounces
15 minutes prior
8 ounces

Avoid a gut-busting feast two hours before you step onto
the field with this easy-to-prepare-and-digest meal.

CARBS 129g
FAT 16g

Barilla Rotini (2 oz): Fill up your energy stores with pasta; it's loaded with carbs, your body's go-to fuel source.

Pumpernickel Bread (1 slice): This bread has a low glycemic index, meaning it supplies a gradual release of energy to sustain your performance at the end of a game.

Campbell's Chunky Old Fashioned Vegetable Beef Soup (1C): Provides an easily digestible source of protein, a nutrient necessary for maximizing power and strength.

Ocean Spray Cran-Apple Drink (1C): Provides a full day's worth of vitamin C to help nourish your muscles with oxygen and keep them running at their full potential.

Salad (4C): A colorful salad has a variety of vitamins and minerals necessary for muscle function, such as thiamin, which works to convert stored energy for use.

Related link:

Watch a video with sports nutritionist Cheryl Zonkowski about what to eat to gain lean muscle mass.



Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock