Train Heroic

Train Heroic: GAME DAY NUTRITION – DO’S AND DON’TS

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Written by Matt Couch, trainer at Train Heroic.

At Train Heroic, we strive to provide you with the most cutting edge and up to date material when it comes to training, nutrition and anything else that falls under the category of performance.  Because when it comes down to it, that’s all that really matters.  You either perform well or you don’t! We want to give you resources and options so that YOU can make an educated decision on how to modify your lifestyle so that your performance can be affected (hopefully for the better).  With that in mind, I am here to tell you that your pre-game “ritual” meal and game day nutrition is probably not helping your performance as of right now.

If you look at the pyramid above, you will find that nutrition is the base and foundation of everything related to training and performance.  This is important to remember because no matter how great of an athlete you are, or how often you workout or practice your sport, you will never reach your full potential without your nutrition dialed in.

YOU CAN’T OUT TRAIN A BAD DIET!

PREGAME MEAL  – WRONG

The old adage of carb loading on bread and pasta the day before and day of a game is “kind of” right… and I use the term “kind of” very loosely.  What the carb load game day nutrition tactic does correctly is that it will increase the amount of glycogen in the body, which will influence your athletic performance.  This glycogen storage is used as energy while we are exercising and performing our sport, so we want these glycogen levels to hopefully not plummet and to remain full during competition.  What the carb load game day nutrition tactic got wrong was the using of wheat, pasta, and cereals as usable sources of carbohydrates for our glycogen stores.  “By all means avoid cereal grains including: all varieties of wheat (spelt, einkorn, emmer, durum), barley, rye, oats, triticale, corn (maize), rice (including wild rice), sorghum, millet, fonio, and teff and legumes,” says 10-year NFL veteran and owner and operator of CrossFit FootballJohn Welbourne.  So if carbs are what we need to keep our glycogen levels full but we shouldn’t be eating grains, cereal, and bread then what kind of carbs should I be consuming for my game day nutrition, especially for pre-game meals?? Well, I’m glad you asked.  We want easily digestible carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, and sweet potatoes.

PREGAME MEAL – RIGHT

Carbs aren’t the only thing that we need to be worried about as we talk about game day nutrition; we want to round those carbs out with our other macronutrients, PROTEIN and FAT.  We should be eating a full meal 3-4 hours before the game. Make sure to take this into account when thinking about your game time.  If you have a 10am game you need to eat no later than 7am that morning – remember the pyramid above, nutrition is the foundation for all performance. This meal should consist of protein, fats and easily digestible carbs.  Think lean meats like chicken and eggs for your protein, avocado or olive/coconut oil for the fat, and some sweet potatoes or fruit for your easily digestible carbs.  Sounds pretty tasty to me!  You should never feel full, sluggish or have that nasty feeling that you over ate.  So give yourself 3-4 hours before your game to digest those macronutrients and use it as fuel for your performance and sport.

If you are starting to get hungry at halftime or if you have multiple games in a day, it is also important to realize what you are fueling your body with as you use up your energy.  We never want to crash at any point during the day, this crash will significantly affect your performance.  Gatorade and other sugary energy drinks have become the norm in these situations and need to be avoided at any and all costs.  Both have a ton of high fructose corn syrup and will give you a quick boost of energy but look out for the crash that is looming when the caffeine and sugar wears off.  What we should be getting in the system is more carbs to replenish our glycogen stores in the form of fruits.  Fruits contain fructose, which is easily converted int0 glycogen in the liver but not especially good at replenishing muscle glycogen.  But we are in luck because not only does fruit have fructose but it also has sucrose and sucrose is the master of replenishing our muscle glycogen stores. The best of both worlds! Oranges, pineapples, and strawberries are the perfect half time snack that will get you recovered and ready for the second half or your next game.  If you have a little more of a break between games (lets say an hour or two) then we want to have another meal similar to what our breakfast looked like. We are looking again for a lean protein like chicken or salmon and easily digestible carbs like sweet potatoes or fruit.

HYDRATION

Hydration is also of utmost importance when it comes to performance in our sport.  Dehydration kills performance!  1% dehydration effects 10% of your performance.  And the more dehydrated you become the more your performance will suffer.  A good rule of thumb when it comes to hydration is ½ your body weight in ounces of water, so if you are 180lb athlete then you need to be drinking at least 90 ounces of water everyday. Also, for every hour of exercise that you partake in you need to add an extra 20 ounces of water.

Quick Math Quiz – A 200lb Athlete works out two hours a day… How many ounces of water should this athlete consume?

Answer – 140 oz.

PREGAME MEAL RULES

  1. Never try anything new on GAMEDAY. You should try and fine tune things on your training and practice days.  This is important because if you add something new into your routine, you don’t know how your body will react.  Remember it’s all about performance and we don’t want to take anything to chance.
  2. Easily Digestible Carbs for added Glycogen — Remember think sweet potatoes, fruit and vegetables here.  Pasta, bread, and cereals should be avoided at all costs!
  3. Don’t eat foods that are hard to digest.
  4. Eat 3 hours prior to Game time. You shouldn’t feel bloated or too full during your game.
  5. Combo of the 3 Macronutrients (Protein, Carb and Fat).

About the Author

Matt Couch

Matt Couch

Matt Couch is the head coach for the Explosive Athlete Program. Couch is the assistant strength coach at the University of San Diego where he worked with and was mentored by Stephane Rochet. Also a former athlete at USD, Couch was a starting pitcher for the baseball team that was ranked as high as #4 in the country. In his career at USD, he was named WCC All-Conference 3 years in a row, played in the prestigious Cape Cod Summer baseball league where he was named an All-Star, and was team Captain his senior season. Seeing athletes develop and reach their maximum potential is his passion.

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About the author
Aaron Sorenson

2 Comments

  • I like the comment about sugary drinks. That is good nutritional advice. I see a lot of students “cram” for finals and then crash during finals week.

  • Good article. Question–what about the meal the night before a match/game? Example: playing in a tennis tournament where my first match is 8am. My meal the night before should contain the same thing as the pre-game meal? (Lean protein, fruits. vegs? Still avoiding potatoes, rice, etc.?)