Knowing what to eat the night before a game will help athletes to be well fueled with energy to perform their best on game day.
While athletes should follow an overall sports nutrition plan to ensure they’re well fueled every day, they should follow the tips below to maximize their meals the night before a game, sports event or competition.
What are the right foods to fuel? Read below to find out.
Pre-game night tips
- Eat a balanced meal
- Don’t try new foods
- Avoid fried foods
- Eat nutrient dense foods
- Eat a bedtime snack
- Get at least 7-9 hours of sleep
Does what you eat the night before a game matter?
What you eat the night before a game impacts your performance and ability to compete for the duration of the game. Eating the right foods provides your body with the necessary energy and nutrients to perform at your best. (1)
However, eating well one night doesn’t have as much impact as how you eat in the days leading up to the game.
Following a performance nutrition diet plan daily ensures that your body will be well fueled with nutrients for energy, muscle growth and repair and hydration.
Though you may be interested in trying a new recipe or something that looks yummy on the menu, remember it’s best to stick to familiar foods. Use your practice day nutrition to test out how new foods impact your activity.
What should you eat the night before a game?
The night before a game, you’ll want to eat a complex carbohydrate rich meal with moderate protein and low fat.
Generally, you should limit foods high in fat and fiber since these slow down digestion and may reduce the amount of carbohydrates your body can store.
Additionally foods that are unfamiliar, high in fat and high in fiber can cause GI upset leaving you with a stomach ache, bloating, gas or nausea.
Basically, you want to stick to foods you know and like so you ensure that you eat enough and know how they’ll make you feel hours later. And if you’re traveling, you’ll want to check out our tips for making healthy choices at restaurants.
In addition, make sure to include extra fluids at meals so you stay on track with being hydrated.
What should you not eat the night before a game?
Athletes should avoid foods that are high in fat and fried as these can slow digestion and cause stomach upset. Additionally, you should limit spicy and heavy creamy sauces as these can cause other GI symptoms as well.
Lastly, remember not to try anything new the night before a game. Instead, you’ll want to eat tried and true foods.
What else should you do the night before game?
When it’s closer to bedtime, you’ll want to have a snack with carbohydrate balanced with some protein about 45 minutes to one hour before. You’ll also want to wind down and relax so that you’re well rested.
Good bedtime snacks include:
- banana and low fat greek yogurt
- whole grain toast and peanut butter
- dry cereal/granola and yogurt
- cottage cheese and fruit
- dried fruit and nuts
- tart cherry juice and string cheese
- whole wheat crackers and string cheese
- low fat milk (or chocolate milk) and whole wheat crackers
Research has shown that tart cherry juice can have a positive effect on sleep due to its natural melatonin as well as inflammatory reducing properties.(2)
Additionally consuming a casein rich protein source has been shown to have an effect on muscle protein synthesis. (3)
Likely athletes have some pre-game jitters and it may be hard to fall asleep. Creating a nighttime routine can help them to wind down and set them up to have a good night’s sleep.
Some good sleep hygiene practices include:
- Meditation or breathing exercises
- Limiting screen time for an hour or so before bedtime
- Drinking 8-10 ounces of water at least one hour before bedtime
- Reading a book
- Light stretching
- Sleeping in a dark and cool room
Eating right the night before a game will make sure you’re fueled and ready to go on game day. Plan on balanced meals combining complex carbohydrates and moderate protein to give your body the energy and nutrients it needs.
You’ll want to make sure you’re following a hydration plan that incorporates water and sports drinks so that you’re hydrated as well.
What is your favorite pre game day meal?
Steph Magill, MS, RD, CD, FAND has over 22 years of experience in public health and nutrition. As a performance registered dietitian nutritionist, Stephanie specializes in sports nutrition and provides simple and actionable information so that athletes can be well fueled for high performance on and off the field. Stephanie has a Master’s Degree in Nutrition and is a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.