The Best Food For Athletes To Eat Before a Competition

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pre-game meals

If you are an athlete getting ready for a game, match or competition, eating a well-balanced meal beforehand is an important part of your prep.

The goal for the pre-event meal is to make sure you have enough fuel to get through the entire athletic event. The pre-event meal should give you the energy to perform and can help prevent fatigue, decrease hunger pain and provide hydration.

Make sure to eat your pre-game meal three to four hours before the event. If you have an 8 a.m. event, cut your calories in half and eat at around 6 a.m. or 6:30 a.m., then have a sports drink 30 minutes before the start.

It’s important to avoid foods that are high-fat. That means no fried foods, bacon, sausage, ribs, ribeye steak, fast food, lasagna, fettuccini alfredo, cheese-based soups or foods made with butter or heavy cream.

Also avoid foods high in fiber, as they will cause gas and bloating. These foods include broccoli, cauliflower, onions, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, beans or high-fiber cereals such as Kashi.

Here are some suggested pre-event meals that can help power you through competition, day or night.

Pre-Event Meals For Evening Competition

  • A 6-ounce grilled chicken breast (6 ounces) , with a bowl of pasta with light red sauce, peas or corn and water
  • A grilled chicken sandwich – but go easy on mayo, and skip the cheese. Round out the meal with fresh fruit and pretzels
  • A 6- or 12-inch sub sandwich with roasted chicken, lean turkey or ham, peanut butter or soy protein for vegetarians on whole-wheat bread. Hold the onions, but all other veggies are fine. Choose mustard or light mayo and add a side of fresh fruit plus water or a low-sugar sports drink such as Gatorade 2 or Gatorade Zero
  • A lean pork chop, served with brown rice or baked potato with light sour cream and light cheese, peas/corn

Breakfast Options For Morning Competition

  • Egg white or Egg Beaters omelet, with two slices of whole-wheat toast or a small bagel and fresh fruit
  • A bagel topped with turkey and scrambled egg whites and low-fat cheese, served with fresh fruit or a low-calorie juice such as Tropicana 50, or light cranberry juice and water
  • A smoothie made from one cup of fruit, 20 grams protein such as one cup non-fat Greek yogurt or one scoop protein powder, and/or two tablespoons peanut butter or powdered peanut butter, one cup spinach or kale and one tablespoon ground flax or chia seed

Amy Jamieson-Petonic, M.Ed., RDN, CSSD, LD is a registered dietitian nutritionist and board-certified sports dietitian at University Hospitals.

Related Links

University Hospitals sports dietitians provide medical nutrition therapy for all athletes, regardless of age or skill level. We focus on behavioral and lifestyle changes that positively affect health and athletic performance, offering care that consists of nutrition assessment, diagnosis, intervention and monitoring/evaluation. Learn more about sports nutrition at University Hospitals.

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