Pre-Competition Meals

Tom McCullough MEd., MSS


Have you ever gone into the lunch room and seen what your athletes are eating? Try it some time, it will literally shock you. Many of our athletes have little or no breakfast. For lunch they often fill up on chips, candy and sodas. Then come game time they run out of gas about half way through. Is it any wonder why?

Athletes are much like high a performance race car, they need lots of high grade fuel to power the body for optimal performance on the field. Anytime an athlete does not provide the body with enough nutrients or fuel, performance on the field is going to sputter and sooner than later.....stall. So obviously, one of the most important parts of preparation for an athletic event is proper nutrition. In order for an athlete to perform their best, a balanced diet must be eaten in combination with plenty of calories and high in complex carbohydrates. Proper pre-competition nutrition will help to ensure that your athletes will have plenty of energy to perform their best during the competition.

What Is A Pre-competition Meal

The pre-competition meal or food that is eaten on the day of the competition, is very important. This is the food that the athlete will use to provide fuel to the body during the game. Because it is a well proven fact that food eaten just before a game will not help perform any better, it is necessary for the athlete to eat meals at the right time.

Here is what we want to accomplish with the pre-competition meal:

1. Allow for the stomach to be relatively empty at the start of competition.
2. Help avoid being hungry during the competition.
3. Keep plenty of energy available for competition.
4. Avoid stomach upset.
5. Provide plenty of fluids for the body.

Solid Meals

In general, a solid meal should be eaten about 3 to 4 hours before your athletes have to compete. So if your competition starts 7:30, your athletes probably don't want to eat a solid meal after about 3:30 that day. So no excuses---everyone on your team will have plenty of time to eat a big lunch and still have enough time for the food to digest properly. Instruct your athletes to eat a lunch that is high in carbohydrates like potatoes, rice, bread, fruit and vegetables, and light in high fatty foods like fried chicken, chili, or chips. These fatty foods are much harder to digest and may cause your stomach to be upset during competition.

Liquid Meals

Liquid meals have some advantages over solid meals. They are well balanced, have a high carbohydrate content, have little bulk, and may be even cheaper than a solid meal. Some of these liquid meals are Ensure, Ensure-plus, Nutriment, Slim Fast, instant breakfasts, etc.

Because liquid meals can be digested much quicker than a solid meal, they may be used much closer to the competition. Research has shown that liquid meals may be used up to 2 hours before game time. So if the game is at 7:30, your athletes could have an instant breakfast as late as 5:30. If your athletes want to really provide their bodies with extra energy for the game, have them bring a package of Carnation Instant Breakfast from home. Mix it with a carton of milk or even pack it along with their regular lunch.

Foods To Avoid

Suggest that your athletes try to stay away from foods like chips, beans or spicy foods on game day. These foods may likely cause heart burn or stomach upset during competition. High sugar foods like candy and soft drinks may also lead to stomach upset and diarrhea. Not something an athletes needs the day of the game. Large amounts of sugar and soft drinks may even cause the athlete to have less energy and ultimately hurt their performance.

Drink Plenty of Fluids

Plenty of fluids should also be consumed during the day, especially if the event is long in duration or in a hot environment. Avoid beverages that contain caffeine or alcohol, like tea, coffee or many soft drinks. These beverages may cause the body to lose fluids more and will definitely hurt performance. Lots of fluids may be taken in up to 15 minutes before competition. Have your athletes drink plenty of liquids even though they may not be thirsty at the time.

What Type of Foods Should Be Eaten Before the Competition

The following are some foods that contain high amounts of the energy producing nutrient carbohydrate. Lots of carbohydrates are necessary to fuel the athletes' body during competition:

one cup of low fat yogurt
an 8 oz glass of orange juice
a toasted bagel
a bowl of oatmeal
2 pieces of toast with jelly
1 oz of turkey breast
1/2 cup of raisins
sliced peaches with milk

Meal Suggestions


English muffins, bagels, or toast with jelly
Muffins with Canadian bacon
French toast
Hot cereals like oatmeal
Ready to eat, high-fiber cereals
Orange juice


Grilled chicken
Lean roast beef
Baked potatoes, with toppings
Pasta, spaghetti, macaroni
All breads
Orange juice
Yogurt or frozen yogurt

What Should I Eat After The Competition

In general, a good balanced meal is all that is necessary to meet all of your athletes' nutrient needs and restore the body back to normal following competition. Make sure your athletes eat plenty of food. Make sure that they have included plenty of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Foods that provide plenty of these nutrients are needed to help them recover from all of the stress of competition. Athletes' shouldn't be afraid to eat plenty of food, their body needs the extra calories. All of those extra nutrients and calories are used to replace those that were used in competition for energy.

Remember also that just being thirsty will not normally provide enough water to replace the losses caused by hard training or competition. So it is always best to drink a little extra water, even if you are not thirsty.
Good nutrition is one of the keys to great performance. If your athletes do not eat right, they will never be able to perform at their best. Many long hours are spent teaching and training the athlete to perform on game day, so why take the chance that it will be less than optimal on game day? Educate your kids on the value of proper nutrition. You will soon find that your kids will have the energy it takes to win!


All material on these pages is subject to and protected by Copyrights.
Do not copy or use in any manner under penalty of law.

Copyright © 1999-2000 Excel Sport Fitness, Inc. All rights reserved.
Pages created and maintained by The Texas Powerlifting Scene.