Lunch Box Special: Tobin Heath's Old-School Pre-Game Favorite

Fuel up before a game like one of the nation's premier soccer athletes, Tobin Heath. A simple peanut butter & jelly sandwich has the right mix of nutrients.

Many athletes follow complex eating plans to power up for big games, but not U.S. Women's Soccer National Team member Tobin Heath. She found her secret weapon inside a kid's lunch box.

Heath discovered that one of her favorite childhood meals delivers the right balance of glucose and fructose and the right ratio of carbs to protein to provide the energy she needs to stay strong throughout an entire 90-minute game. What is this unassuming mega-meal? A peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

"When exercise is prolonged over an hour, [athletes] need to consume up to 90 grams of carbohydrate per hour," says Asker Jeukenruph, senior director of the Gatorade Sports Science Institute. "When you go into this higher range, you need to make sure those carbohydrates are a mix of different types, like glucose and fructose."

When consumed together, Jeukenruph says, glucose and fructose encourage a more rapid delivery of energy throughout the body. A PB&J sandwich provides both of those carbohydrates in bread and peanut butter.

Heath had occasionally suffered from cramping and low energy during games. She added this formidable fare to her pre-game routine before the 2009 season. What followed was one of her best years ever, including her famed "double nutmeg" against Canada.  (See Behind the Highlights: Tobin Heath's Amazing Double Nutmeg.)

"Experience has shown me that I don't need anything fancy," Heath says. "What I'm eating works for me." What Heath is eating is at least half a sandwich, just before game time. She also hydrates with Gatorade, which provides the electrolytes she needs in her system to prevent cramps.

"It's simple and it works for me," Heath says. "Doing everything nutrition-wise for myself gives me confidence, because instead of thinking mid-game about how hungry I am, all I'm concerned about is winning the game."

Her confidence and endurance saved the day in the U.S. team's gold medal match at the 2012 Olympics, when Heath assisted on the winning goal in the 87th minute of play.

To fuel up like Tobin, try one of these PB&J options along with a Gatorade before your next workout or game.

The Classic

  • 2 tbsp. MaraNatha No-Stir Crunchy Peanut Butter
  • 1 tbsp. Smucker's Seedless Blackberry Jam
  • 1 slice Pepperidge Farm 100% Whole Wheat Bread

Nutritional Info:

Calories: 350
Fat: 16g
Carbs: 40g
Protein: 12g

Satisfying and Sweet

  • 2 tbsp. Peanut Butter & Co. Dark Chocolate Dreams
  • 1 tbsp. Unsweetened Coconut Flakes
  • 1 slice Rudi's Organic Bakery Bread, Honey Sweet Whole Wheat

Nutritional Info:

Calories: 300
Fat: 17g
Carbs: 32g
Protein: 12g

The 'Elvis Lives!'

  • 2 tbsp. Justin's Honey Almond Butter
  • 1 tbsp. Organic Honey
  • ½ cup banana slices
  • 1 Thomas's Whole-Wheat Mini Bagel

Nutritional Info:

Calories: 375
Fat: 18g
Carbs: 66g
Protein: 15g

(See also 4 Delicious Muscle-Building Snacks with Peanut Butter.)

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock