Nutrition Tips for Athletes to Perform on Gameday

By DuBose Fitness

It’s game day! Are you excited? You might be so excited, in fact, that you don’t have much of an appetite.

Stop! Gameday nutrition is extremely important and can impact your performance on the field (or in the arena or on the court). Don’t wait until it’s too late to fuel your body – let’s look at gameday nutrition tips for athletes.


Nervous? Eat Anyway!

First and foremost, it’s critical that you don’t play on an empty stomach! You’re going to be asking a lot of your body; make sure it has the fuel it needs to perform. If you skip meals on gameday it can carry some serious consequences. You may get nauseous or experience stomach cramping. You may feel dizzy or lightheaded. You’ll feel tired while you play. And, in extreme cases you may even pass out.

Eat a healthy breakfast that’s designed to boost your energy. Carbohydrates and protein are essential, and you should include some healthy fats, too. Avoid greasy or fried foods. A veggie omelet and whole wheat toast are a great choice or opt for a whole grain bagel with avocado and smoked salmon. Getting your day off to a great start will only improve your performance when it’s time to play.


Eat for Your Sport

Different sports require different fuel. If you’re a long-distance swimmer, you’ll need different nutrients than a professional boxer.

As you’ve progressed through your athletic career, you’ve likely developed a great relationship with your coach. Don’t be afraid to ask him for a few tips on gameday nutrition. The same is true for your sports trainer. He or she can give you excellent advice on the perfect balance of carbs, proteins and fats to make sure you’re at your best.


Proper Hydration is Critical

It goes without saying that gameday hydration is very important and will impact your performance on the field. With that said, it’s also important that you don’t over-hydrate. Water should be your drink of choice on gameday. Grab a bottle of water before you reach for sports drinks. 

Game day hydration begins the night before you game. Drink around 16 ounces of water before bed, then another 16 in the morning. Sip water throughout the day and avoid sugary drinks. Then, about 30 minutes before game time, drink another 8 ounces of water. Of course, you’ll want to sip water during breaks in your play, too. When the game’s over, skip the round of drinks and instead replenish your body by drinking water.


Choose Your Foods Wisely

Your body needs real, whole foods. With that said, it’s best to avoid “sports” foods on game day. Sports foods include protein meal replacement shakes, bars and other supplements. Sports drinks are included in this category, though they may be okay for you to use in moderation. Ask your coach or trainer if you have any questions. Supplements in pill form should be used with caution.

In other words, eat real food! Your body needs the vitamins, minerals, proteins and energy that comes from lean meats, carbohydrates and produce. There’s no substitute for fresh food to provide the strength and endurance you need for peak performance.


Eat for Post-Game Recovery

On game day, you’ve eaten a healthy breakfast and a hearty lunch. Assuming you’re playing an evening game, it’s best to just munch on a light snack prior to the start of the game.

Obviously, you’re going to be hungry when that final whistle blows! Grab a bottle of water and head home for a full, nutritious meal. Celebrate with a steak if you like and go ahead and eat the whole thing! Whole grain pasta is a good choice, and at least half your plate should be filled with fresh veggies. Dairy is important for your recovery and be sure your post-game meal includes some healthy fats like avocado or coconut oil.

Post-game recovery is essential to your future performance and your health. The right foods will allow you to replenish your glycogen, properly rehydrate and repair your muscles. Don’t skip this step – it’s one of the most important!

Overall, if you’ve got a good nutritional plan on the days you’re not on the field, your game day nutrition should be a breeze. As always, use common sense and don’t hesitate to ask your coach or trainer if you need any sport-specific tips.