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What to Eat and Drink Before the Big Game

By Natasha Vani, MSc., ATCP

Here you have it, the foolproof guide to a high quality pre-game meal that will ensure optimal energy without creating a heavy feeling in your gut.

What to eat and when
The most important goal for any pre-game meal is to ensure the muscle and liver glycogen stores are full—these are your most important storage sites for energy. How do you do it?

  • Your pre-game meal should consist mainly of complex carbohydrates. This meal should contain little fat and moderate amounts of protein.
  • Eat two to four hours before the event and should include 1 to 4 grams of food per kg of body weight.
  • You should always eat foods that are familiar to your body.
  • Avoid simple sugars and high glycemic index foods before exercise as they may cause a sudden rise of insulin followed by a decrease in blood glucose resulting in that tired feeling. You also want to avoid foods high in dietary fiber—they may lead to a bloated stomach and a feeling of heaviness. Watch out with legumes, various veggies such as broccoli, corn, cauliflower and brussels sprouts and heavy fiber cereals such as All Bran and Bran Buds.
  • Avoid greasy, fatty or fried foods such as sausage, bacon and fries. Also avoid highly seasoned foods.

What to drink and when

  • Focus on drinking water; many of the sports drinks out there have been designed to replace lost electrolytes. In most athletes who exercise for 30 to 60 minutes, this does not become a major concern. Unless you are taking part in an endurance event lasting two to four hours, stick with water.

 
  • You may consume water freely up to two hours before an event. Within two hours of the event, consume two to three cups; one cup may be consumed 15 minutes before the event.
  • To ensure all glycogen stores are full, you can try a light drink with 5 to 6% carbohydrates 15 minutes before the event. But again, most of us only need water.
  • Always stay away from caffeine and alcohol—both are considered diuretics and may cause a dehydrating effect. If you do consume either, make sure you drink extra water to compensate.

Final tip
Proper nutrition is very important for athletes, but it must be recognized that the above tips are only guidelines. Everyone reacts differently to various foods. Some of us need more food and some need less. Either way, the athlete who has a firm understanding of his body’s needs truly has an advantage in competition.

My best piece of advice is to experiment with different foods, liquids and times. Do so in either a practice week or in the off season. Write down what you have consumed and when and, most importantly, how you felt with each combination, then use your optimal arrangement before the big game.

Good luck!

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