Pre Game Meal: Best Tips for Performance


On game day, the pre game meal is key. It’s the last regular meal you’ll eat before you step on the field for game time. 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 plan.

The best pre game meals optimize your performance and provide enough calories to keep your energy stores high and blood sugar level.

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.

Pre game meal planning

Planning ahead and knowing what foods work best will make the pre game process smoother. So when you can, take stock of a few things:

  • What time is the game?
  • How many games?
  • 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 pre game meal?
  • What are my favorite pre game 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 I have a good pre game meal

Whether young or old, soccer players need a healthy pre game meal. While the 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 pre game meals. Since your games are likely more intense, you’ll need energy and stamina to carry through the full 90 (1).

You may need to add in some healthy snacks at halftime or sneak in a few gulps of sports drinks during injury breaks. We’ll cover this in future posts.

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. So for competitions in the late afternoon, you should be able to fit in a solid breakfast, snack and hearty lunch.

Plan to eat your regular meal at least 3-4 hours before your game. During this meal, 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 snacks verses full meals.

pre game meal timing

What should you eat before a game

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. 

Healthy tips for pre game meals

  • 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

Pre game meal ideas for early morning games

Cereal and milk + banana
Low fat greek yogurt and granola + strawberries
Oatmeal + raisins or fresh fruit + non fat milk
Toast with peanut butter and jelly
French toast + jelly + banana
Waffles or Pancakes + jelly + blueberries
Mango smoothie + toast

Pre game meal ideas for afternoon and evening games

Turkey and cheese sandwich + fruit
Strawberry smoothie + half sandwich
Chicken noodle soup with side of toast/bread + fruit
Rice bowl + protein + veggies
Pasta with tomato sauce or pesto + veggies or fruit
Burrito with protein + rice + salsa + fruit

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.

What will you try for your next pre game meal?

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