Eating on game day
For athletes that are serious about their sport, game day nutrition is a major piece of the success puzzle. Many athletes will go to extreme lengths to ensure they are physically prepared for a game, yet somehow forget about the cornerstone of all movement, energy.
Energy is the fuel that allows us to run, jump and tackle. Having a large energy tank and using it efficiently is what allows us to repeatedly perform at a high level.
As humans, we source energy through the breakdown of protein, carbohydrates, and fats. The rate at which we can access the energy carried in these macronutrients is not equal, so it’s not just about filling the fuel tank, it is vitally important that we do so with the right fuel at the right time. Using a slow release fuel such as fat is not going to cut it when called upon during the numerous intense efforts throughout a football match.
Aside from energy, meal size and digestion rate must be acknowledged. I’m sure you all agree that you do not want to be playing with a full stomach. Once you are up and running, your stomach drastically reduces its ability to digest. That means the closer we get to a game, the faster the meal must be broken down.
Most proteins, fats, and fiber have slow digestion rates. Whilst this is a great thing for minimizing hunger, it is not great for game day performance. That is why in the examples below, you will see meals that are mainly carbohydrate.
Before moving forward I must stress that the following rules and examples are applicable for GAME DAY and do not necessarily apply to training days or rest days.
If you already understand nutrition and energy metabolism, here are the key rules that I want you to implement on game day.
- Minimize fat and fiber intake.
- Consume some protein with breakfast.
- Eat low GI carbohydrates up until 2 hours before the game.
- Do not overeat.
- Do not excessively drink (you should be hydrated from the days prior).
- Consume high GI carbohydrates.
- Consume water.
- Consume some sodium.
Both the carbohydrates and sodium can be found within a Gatorade or any major sports drink.
- Shower, relax, then eat.
- Eat lots of protein and carbohydrates.
- Replace any weight loss.
Without going into the specifics of exercise metabolism, it is important to understand that carbohydrates fuel high-intensity exercise. Our muscles and liver can only hold so much glycogen (energy), so ensuring our tank is full, and topped up regularly throughout the match, is very important.
If all of the above meant absolutely nothing to you, that’s ok!
Just follow the recommendations below.
For a 2pm start
Breakfast (8 am): Yoghurt, muesli, and berries or Weetbix with milk and a protein shake.
Lunch (11 am): 2 wholemeal sandwiches (no salad or meat) or medium bowl of fried rice/ pasta (do not over-consume!!)
Pre-game: 1 banana.
In-game: 1 Gatorade.
Immediately post-game: 2 scoops of whey protein and 1 Gatorade or soft drink.
Within 2 hours: large serve of meat with pasta, rice or potato.
Later that night: another 1-2 scoop whey protein shake.
For those starting at 12 pm, I would simply take out the lunch meal and have it post game.
For those playing at 10 am I would have a small breakfast at 6:30-7 am and then still have the banana at 9 am if hungry.
Hopefully, this information can help take your game to the next level in 2019!