Pregame Meal

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Dodging meals can leave you slower, weaker and in your opponent's dust. No matter what game you play, eating's got to be a part of your preparation. Start fueling your body three days before competition by eating a little more at every meal. This will provide the energy your body needs but might not get the night, or hours, before a big game—when nervousness can take over your appetite. At breakfast, fill your bowl with a little more cereal or throw down an extra slice of toast. Add some fruit or a yogurt to lunch and have an extra handful of pretzels or trail mix during the day. An additional serving of rice, pasta or potatoes at dinner helps, too. Your body will tap into this stored energy the day of competition.

Check out the meal below. The basic recipe is perfect for stop-and-go athletes such as soccer and basketball players. Variations are shown for endurance athletes (e.g., distance runners), strength athletes (e.g., football players) and weight conscious athletes (e.g., wrestlers).

Basic recipe: 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

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Dodging meals can leave you slower, weaker and in your opponent's dust. No matter what game you play, eating's got to be a part of your preparation. Start fueling your body three days before competition by eating a little more at every meal. This will provide the energy your body needs but might not get the night, or hours, before a big game—when nervousness can take over your appetite. At breakfast, fill your bowl with a little more cereal or throw down an extra slice of toast. Add some fruit or a yogurt to lunch and have an extra handful of pretzels or trail mix during the day. An additional serving of rice, pasta or potatoes at dinner helps, too. Your body will tap into this stored energy the day of competition.

Check out the meal below. The basic recipe is perfect for stop-and-go athletes such as soccer and basketball players. Variations are shown for endurance athletes (e.g., distance runners), strength athletes (e.g., football players) and weight conscious athletes (e.g., wrestlers).

Basic recipe:
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
Drink 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
Or
½ C extra lean ground meat or ground turkey to spaghetti sauce
Drink water instead of lemonade

For weight conscious athletes, use:
½ package of light tortellini
Light yogurt (100 calories) with
2T of granola
Glass of water, flavored water or artificially sweetened lemonade

A few rules to fueling before a game:

  • Don't try new foods, sports drinks or energy bars
  • Don't eat fried or greasy foods
  • Avoid food with too much fiber— like bean soup or broccoli

Leslie J. Bonci, R.D., M.P.H., L.D.N., serves as a nutrition consultant for professional sports teams, including the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Reds and Toronto Blue Jays.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock