Pre Game Meal: Best Ideas to Fuel Athletes


On game day, the pre game meal is key. Since it’s the last regular meal you’ll eat before you step on the field for game time, you want to choose the right foods.

So, you want to find the foods that fill you up, don’t upset your stomach and keep you energized.

As part of your sports nutrition plan to optimize your performance, you’ll want to have a game day sports nutrition meal plan.

The best meals optimize your performance and provide enough calories to keep your energy stores high and blood sugar level when you step on the field.

Therefore, have a plan, test it at practices and make sure you have access to the foods that work best for you.

Read on to learn more about the best options.

Pre game meal -best ideas for athletes

Planning for game day meals

Planning ahead and knowing what foods work best will make game day smoother. So, take stock of a few game day needs:

  • What time is the game?
  • How many games will I play?
  • What time will I wake up and have my first meal or breakfast?
  • Will I have 3-4 hours before my game to eat a full meal?
  • What are my favorite meals?
  • What can I make ahead of time?
  • What might I need to pack if we’re on the go?
  • What snacks and pre game foods do I want to have to eat 1 hour before?

Why should athletes eat a good meal before a game

Whether young or old, soccer players need a healthy meal before their game. While a younger athlete isn’t going all out for 90 minutes, they still need energy to sustain their activity and to help them focus. 

Teen and highly competitive athletes may need help in planning ahead to eat the right foods for their meals. Since your games are likely more intense, you’ll need energy and fuel to carry through the full 90 (1).

What’s the best time to eat a pre game meal

Generally, you should try to have as many “regular” meals as possible before game time. So for competitions in the late afternoon, you should be able to fit in a solid breakfast, healthy snack and hearty lunch.

What should you eat 3-4 hours before your game

If you’ve got at least 3-4 hours before game time, you should eat a regular meal.

When you have 3-4 hours before a game, focus on high carbohydrate, moderate protein and fiber, low fat meals with fruit and vegetables on the side.

The closer you get to the game, the more you’ll focus on healthy pre game snacks instead of larger meals.

pre game meal timing

What is a good pre game meal

A good pregame meal consists of high carbohydrate, moderate protein, color and low healthy fat to provide the fuel your body needs to perform its best.

When it comes to pre game meals, there isn’t a single food or magic combination that works for every athlete. Athletes respond differently to foods during exercise and competition, and it takes some trial and error to find the right mix of timing and foods.

The ultimate goal of the pre game meal is to find the right mix of foods that provides the energy needed to play without causing stomach upset or running out of steam. 

What to eat before early morning games

Often early morning games mean less time to eat and digest a big meal before the game starts. When you have an early morning game, you should eat foods that you know sit well in your stomach.

Generally easily digestible carbohydrates will be the best choice for a pregame meal before a morning game. Here are some ideas for morning pre game meals:

  • Cereal and low fat milk or plant based milk + banana
  • Low fat greek yogurt and granola + strawberries
  • Oatmeal + raisins or fresh fruit + non fat milk
  • Whole wheat toast with peanut butter and jelly or honey
  • Whole grain waffles or pancakes + nut butter + blueberries
  • Mango smoothie with low fat greek yogurt + whole grain toast
  • Whole grain english muffin + fried egg + fresh berries
  • Granola + low fat greek yogurt + acai berry or blueberries

What to eat before afternoon and evening games

If your game is in the afternoon or evening, you’ll have time to eat a good breakfast, hearty lunch and healthy snacks before game time.

Some great options for meals before afternoon or evening games are:

  • Turkey and cheese sandwich on whole grain bread + apple slices
  • Strawberry smoothie with low fat greek yogurt + half nut butter sandwich
  • Chicken noodle soup with whole grain bread + fresh berries
  • Brown rice bowl+lean protein or plant based protein + roasted veggies
  • Whole grain past with tomato sauce +turkey meatball+steamed veggies
  • Whole wheat burrito with chicken + rice+ veggies + salsa
  • Whole wheat wrap +tofu+hummus+veggies+ fresh fruit on the side
  • Omelette with veggies + lean chicken sausage+roasted potatoes
best pre game meal ideas

Healthy tips for eating before a game

  • Eat tested and tried foods. Never try a new food before a race or competition. On those days, rely on tried and true foods and timing. And when trying something new, introduce it slowly, trying it a couple times to see how it’s tolerated.
  • Eat easily digested foods as game time approaches Crackers, toast, banana, yogurt. This will vary for athletes and athletes should experiment to see what works best for them.
  • Eat the right amount of food. Timing meals and snacks and eating enough of the right food will help prevent hunger and low blood sugar during a game. Low blood sugar can cause fatigue. Eating too much food can cause stomach cramps, nausea or stomach distress.
  • Eat high carbohydrate, moderate protein, and low fat. Carbohydrates digest faster than protein or fat. Eating some protein will help to stabilize blood sugar and prevent low blood sugar from affecting performance.
  • Avoid high fat, gas producing, and sugary foods. Fat digests slowly and can cause stomach cramps or diarrhea. Sugary foods can cause blood sugar spikes with crashes, hastening fatigue.
  • Eat a full meal focused on carbohydrates if there’s plenty of time before the game starts.The further out the competition, the more opportunity to digest and absorb energy and nutrients.
pre game meal tips

Importance of developing health habits for overall health

While a good pre game meal could improve stamina and endurance for a game, one meal doesn’t take the place of an adequate well balanced eating plan for youth athletes.

Following an athlete diet plan especially in season will ensure you maintain energy, build and repair muscles and support your immune system.

Also, check out our post on game day nutrition. Since you may need to add in some healthy snacks at halftime or sneak in a few gulps of sports drinks or water during injury breaks, you’ll want to have some good options stashed in your gear bag.

Indeed, this will help you stay well hydrated, fueled and ready for the second half.

best pre game meal ideas

What will you try for your next pre game meal?

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