Nutrition for Game Day
“You must have gas in the tank to make the vehicle go. And after driving, you need to refill that tank. In other words, you should eat before and after your workout, regardless of your fitness goals.” Krista Scott-Dixon
Eat a small meal that contains carbohydrates (like whole grain bread or cereal, or fruit and yogurt) but not much fat 1 ½ to 2 hours before your workout or game. Avoid fried foods, sweets and processed foods: they are hard to digest and just sit in your gut and make you feel sluggish, or worse, give you bowel cramps during the game. If you exercise without eating first you will not perform well. You could run out of energy and feel really bad half an hour in to your workout. Athletes call it “hitting the wall” or “bonking.” Many promising athletes have lost competitions because of it.
During the Workout
As long as you have had a small meal within 2 hours of your game, you usually don’t need anything but plenty of water during the first hour of play. If you practice or play more than an hour, or it is unusually hot, a sports drink that contains 160-200 mg of sodium per 8 ounces is OK. Sports drinks should be avoided at all other times because they contain excess sodium, sugar, preservatives and other artificial ingredients that are bad for you.
Your body needs carbohydrates and protein after a workout. Carbs give you the energy you need and protein helps your muscles recover. You need protein to build muscle. After a vigorous workout you need about ½ gram of carbohydrate per pound of body weight and 8 to 10 grams of protein. (An 80-pound athlete needs 40 grams of carbohydrate. For example: a glass of chocolate milk and a banana, or a peanut butter sandwich.) Try to eat within 30 to 60 minutes of your workout. If you wait too long your muscles won’t recover as well.
It is important to fuel your body with whole, unprocessed foods between workouts. Avoid fast foods and prepackaged snacks. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Try to get some protein at every meal and snack. The better your nutrition day to day, the better your performance on game day.
Dr. Kocsis is the author of Savvy Eating for the Whole Family: Whole Foods Whole Family, Whole Life and practices pediatrics at Cornerstone Pediatrics in Cary, NC, (919) copyright 2009