We are
now halfway through September, and high school fall sports are in
full swing. With football and soccer games coming up this weekend,
athletes are looking for any way they can to gain a competitive edge.
One of
the easiest, yet most overlooked, ways to feel your best come game
day is simply eating the right foods at the right time. Food is the
body’s primary source of energy, and if you are loading up on
fast-food burgers and fries before your big game, you will feel
sluggish and probably nauseous.
Our
main fuel source is a special form of glucose called glycogen.
Glycogen is found in complex carbohydrates such as whole-grain bread,
cereal, and pasta. Sugary foods like candy and soda are high in
carbohydrates, but not the kind you need to perform your best on game
day. These foods are loaded with simple carbs, a.k.a. sugar, which
provide little-to-no glycogen to your body.
If you
want to know how many grams of complex carbohydrates a certain food
has, you will have to look at the nutrition facts. The
“Carbohydrates” category usually has two subsections; sugars and
fiber. As recommended by Stack.com, take the total grams of
carbohydrates and subtract the grams that are sugar and fiber –
this will leave you with your complex carbs. You should aim to
consume between 75-150 grams of complex carbohydrates before your
game.
Just as
important as the food you eat is when you eat it. You want to consume
these complex carbs long enough before your game that they are fully
digested, but not so long that the energy is no longer readily
accessible. Ideally, you should aim to eat a big meal 3-4 hours
before your game. A smaller meal requires 2-3 hours, a liquid meal
(such as a shake) needs 1-2 hours, and a small snack needs about an
hour.
You
will also want to get a little bit of protein in your system at this
time. Avoid high-fat proteins like peanut butter and cheese – these
take more time to digest and will slow you down. Here are some sample
meals you can try out before your next game:
  • Pasta
    with tomato sauce.
  • 3
    oz of chicken with a baked potato.
  • A
    whole wheat bagel with low-fat cream cheese.
  • Low-fat
    yogurt with strawberries and a banana.
Don’t
try any new foods on game day (you don’t want to risk a stomachache)
and don’t forget to drink plenty of water!
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