Have you ever felt that disconnect between your mental readiness for a game and your physical ability to make it through? What you eat on game day could mean the difference between a good game and a great one. Being in peak shape is only one part of the equation- if you don’t take the time to eat the right foods in the proper amounts, your performance will suffer.
It’s really not that hard to fuel properly for your event. Make sure to eat a carbohydrate and protein-rich meal about two hours before the game. This is the most important first step to avoid the mid-game crash.
Carbohydrates are the preferred fuel for endurance athletes. They are easily digested, absorbed and converted to blood sugar and then immediately available for your muscles to use. Carbs can also be stored in your body to provide you with enough energy to exercise for long periods of time. Skimp on carbs and you will hit the wall. Compare your body to your car. Would you set out on a long trip without a full tank of gas? Of course not! It’s vitally important to fuel your body before an endurance event. Proteins, just as important as carbs, are the building blocks of muscles and will help you stay full longer. Skimp on the protein, and your carbs will not be as available to give you enough energy. Try these quick meals:
- Whole-wheat toast, peanut butter and a piece of fruit.
- Greek yogurt topped with trail mix and granola.
- Oatmeal, almonds, raisins and milk.
- Turkey sandwich made with avocado, lettuce and tomato.
Getting enough fluid can also make or break your performance. Some athletes find it hard to drink water when they are not thirsty, but it’s important to push. Remember the two to three rule. You need to drink two to three cups of water two to three hours before a game. Then make sure to drink water every 15 to 20 minutes during the game. Remember not to confuse hunger for dehydration.
These guidelines may not work for everyone. Try different eating and exercise strategies to figure out your best regimen. If you need further help, contact a Registered Dietitian to customize your plan. The bottom line is what you eat will affect your game.