When it comes to competition or game day, fuelling your body is very important! Not fuelling up is a little like driving a car with little or no petrol in the tank—it just does not work.
So when do you eat, and what do you eat?
Timing is everything. Food is only useful when it is digested and absorbed. If you eat steak, chips and vegetables twenty minutes before a game, your body is going to spend the next hour or so digesting it, before any of the nutrients can be absorbed and utilised—not helpful.
The time required for digestion relies on the quality and quantity of the food you eat. If you are having a meal, aim for this to be three to four hours prior to your event or game. A lighter snack can be consumed one to two hours prior, and some liquids or fruit in the hour leading up to the game may be appropriate. Each sport is different, and different food will be tolerated accordingly. Food is better tolerated during lower intensity activity or something like cycling, where the body is supported. Before more intense activity, such as a competitive sports game, fuelling a little earlier on to allow for complete digestion may be more comfortable for most people. Find what works for you before game day.
As with the pre-workout snack, food before a game or event should be high in low-GI carbohydrates, low in fat, and only moderate in fiber to allow for easier digestion, which is less likely to leave you with an unwanted funny feeling in your stomach. As a general rule, one to four grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight is required one to four hours prior to exercise.
An ideal meal three to four hours prior to the game can consist of carbohydrates and protein:
- Oats with fruit and reduced-fat yoghurt
- Wholegrain bread or crumpets with honey and a piece of fruit
- Fruit smoothie: 1 banana, 250 ml reduced-fat milk, 2 tablespoons reduced-fat yoghurt, and a drizzle of honey
- Cereal or muesli with reduced-fat yoghurt and fruit
- Pasta or rice with some protein, vegetables, and low-fat sauce
- Meat and salad sandwich
Ideal snacks one to two hours prior include:
- Banana / piece of fruit
- Muesli bar
- Berries and reduced-fat yoghurt
Within an hour of the event:
- Sports drink (tolerated well by most people)
- Fruit, if tolerated well
Don’t forget about fueling during the event or game. If your activity (especially when performed at a higher intensity) lasts longer than sixty minutes, fuel is usually recommended during the session. Sports drink, cordial, and carbohydrate gels tend to be easily tolerated and offer the fast-digesting carbohydrates your body will need during exercise.