Tom McCullough MEd., MSS
Have you ever gone into the lunch room and seen what your athletes
eating? Try it some time, it will literally shock you. Many of our
have little or no breakfast. For lunch they often fill up on chips,
and sodas. Then come game time they run out of gas about half way
Is it any wonder why?
Athletes are much like high a performance race car, they need lots
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
performance on the field is going to sputter and sooner than
So obviously, one of the most important parts of preparation for an
event is proper nutrition. In order for an athlete to perform their
a balanced diet must be eaten in combination with plenty of calories
high in complex carbohydrates. Proper pre-competition nutrition will
to ensure that your athletes will have plenty of energy to perform
best during the competition.
What Is A Pre-competition Meal
The pre-competition meal or food that is eaten on the day of the
is very important. This is the food that the athlete will use to
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
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
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.
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
probably don't want to eat a solid meal after about 3:30 that day. So
excuses---everyone on your team will have plenty of time to eat a big
and still have enough time for the food to digest properly. Instruct
athletes to eat a lunch that is high in carbohydrates like potatoes,
bread, fruit and vegetables, and light in high fatty foods like fried
chili, or chips. These fatty foods are much harder to digest and may
your stomach to be upset during competition.
Liquid meals have some advantages over solid meals. They are well
have a high carbohydrate content, have little bulk, and may be even
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
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
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
Foods To Avoid
Suggest that your athletes try to stay away from foods like chips,
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
needs the day of the game. Large amounts of sugar and soft drinks may
cause the athlete to have less energy and ultimately hurt their
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
hurt performance. Lots of fluids may be taken in up to 15 minutes
competition. Have your athletes drink plenty of liquids even though
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
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
• 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
your athletes' nutrient needs and restore the body back to normal
competition. Make sure your athletes eat plenty of food. Make sure that
they have included plenty of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Foods
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
Remember also that just being thirsty will not normally provide
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
Good nutrition is one of the keys to great performance. If your
do not eat right, they will never be able to perform at their best.
long hours are spent teaching and training the athlete to perform on
day, so why take the chance that it will be less than optimal on game
Educate your kids on the value of proper nutrition. You will soon find
that your kids will have the energy it takes to win!
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