Game Day Nutrition

Game Day Nutrition


Game day – Nutrition.

Players take 5 minutes to read this and you’re playing experience will improve.

When it comes to performing on the day of the big game there are many things that factor into the equation. Training, a good night’s sleep, timing, the sport — these things are all part of athletes’ ability to get in the zone. Another factor in performance? Diet. Not just daily food intake, but athletes’ game-day diets.

Key Points;-

– Glycogen is the key energy source your muscles use during most sports activities. These glycogen levels are filled up and stored up to 48 hours before your event. What you eat the day prior and night prior to your game or event is as/more important than what you eat on game day. Your game day meal is intended to supplement glycogen levels, keep you satiated, and stabilize blood sugar levels.

– What you eat means nothing if your muscles aren’t properly hydrated. Again, the day before is just as important. Aim for 1/2 your body weight (lbs) in ounces from just water.

– Allowing time for digestion is vital but eating too far an advance will cause you to feel hungry before/during the game. My suggestion is to aim for a medium to large meal 4 hours before game.

– Your meal should consist of 50% carbs, 25 % protein, 25% fat.

– 60-90 minutes before the game consuming a simple carbohydrate such as a piece of fruit will help provide extra energy that will be available during the game.

Your body’s absolute favourite source of energy is from carbohydrates. When you eat them, complex starches and sugars are broken down into glucose, their smallest component. Glucose goes easily through your intestinal linings into the bloodstream. It enters the cells and goes into the mitochondria where it starts down a pathway where all the energy stored in the glucose molecules is released and converted into ATP. Think of it sort of like a bio-battery of power that fuels everything in your body

Pre?game meals are usually taken 2?4 hrs beforehand but this will really depend on individual tolerance. As such, there’s no reason why your food intake should back off game day. The following are examples, of suitable meal times depending on game starts…

11:00am Start

8:00am Breakfast

2:30pm Start

8:00 am Breakfast

11:00am Pre?game meal

4:30pm Start

9:00 am Breakfast (assumes a sleep?in)

11:00pm Lunch / Snack

1:00pm Pre?game meal


• Pre-Game:

–   Pre-Game Meal:

  • 4-6 hours before game

• High Complex / Low GI** foods; low protein and fat

• Hydrate well: fruit juices, sports drinks (Powerade or Gatorade not recommended), water

  • 2-3 Hours before game

• Moderately-sized snack: more low GI foods; low protein and fat

• Continue to hydrate, fruit juice / water

• No caffeine*

  • 1 Hour before game

• Small snack: easily digestible foods (fruit, pretzels), sports bars and sports drinks (like Gatorade or Powerade – NO “Energy Drinks” (Red Bull, etc.)

• Continue to hydrate

• No caffeine*

  • 30 minutes before game

• “Top off the tank”

• High-GI** carbs that will absorb quickly and deliver glucose rapidly to working muscles

(Corn chips / rice cakes / pretzels, Sweetened fruit drinks / dried fruits / watermelon)

• Sports drink, sports gels

• No caffeine*

*Caffeine has major dehydrating effects, can make you jumpy, and raises your heart rate and blood pressure – all things you should avoid on game day!

So what should be on your plate game day …

There’s no one perfect game day meal plan. Instead your meals can come from an array of different choices, taking into consideration food likes / dislikes as well as practical issues like the logistics of eating when travelling. The emphasis should remain with fuelling foods to boost energy reserves such as breads, cereals, and fruit in all of its forms, pasta, rice, noodles, cous cous, starchy veggies (potato, corn) & dairy snacks.

Keeping the fat content low helps reduce the potential for intestinal discomfort & moderating your intake of protein rich food frees up some of your plate real estate for the fuel foods. If game day nerves get the better of you, smaller more frequent meals/ snacks may suit you better, with liquid meals like smoothies & shakes often being better tolerated as they leave the stomach that little bit faster.

Pre-game meal examples:

Breakfast cereal or porridge and reduced fat milk

Toast or muffins with jam/honey/peanut butter

Baked beans or tinned spaghetti on toast

Pasta with a low fat tomato based sauce

Sandwiched or rolls

Creamed rice and tinned fruit

Rice or noodles and low fat stir fry

Low fat smoothies or liquid sports nutrition supplement (like Sustagen Sport)

If you’ve been diligent with your fluid intake the day before the game your waking urine should be light straw coloured. If it isn’t you’ll need to be a little more aggressive with your fluid intake in the lead up to the game. Otherwise, it’s a case of trying to maintain your enhanced hydration status. Avoid the temptation to drink large amounts of fluid in the few hours before the game, it does nothing except keep you on the squirter. Instead, include 1?2 glasses of fluid with each meal & snack game day. A 400?600 ml hit of sports drink just prior to your warm up can prime the stomach to maximise the rate of fluid uptake during the game, getting nutrients to the muscles when they need it most. This will also reduce the potential for intestinal discomfort during the game but as with any new strategy, trial it first to confirm it works for you.


  • Carbohydrates are important for athletes because they provide you with your main source of energy for exercise and competition. Without an adequate supply of carbs in your blood and working organs, your performance can be severely limited
  • “GI” = Glycemic Index, which is an index of foods with different kinds of carbohydrates. Those foods are rated “Low GI” or “High GI” based on the speed at which they are absorbed by the body to deliver carbs to your bloodstream in the form of glucose, and to your muscles in the form of glycogen
  • Low GI Foods are rich in fibre, and have carbs that absorb slowly and take a longer time to deliver glucose to your blood and glycogen to your working muscles.
  • High GI Foods consist of sugars and starches, and have carbs that absorb rapidly and deliver glucose to your blood and glycogen to your muscles quickly

• Examples of Low GI and High GI Foods:

  • Low GI Foods (eat these the night before games and at your pre-game meal):

• Potatoes (boiled red or white/sweet)

• Pasta (wheat/white/egg)

• Beans and nuts

• Rices/Grains (Boiled white and long grain/rice pilaf/cornmeal)

• Breads and Rolls (wheat/white/rye/sourdough)

• Fruits (apples/pears/cherries/grapes/grapefruit/bananas/pineapple)

  • High GI Foods (eat these within the first 12 hours after competition to reload the tank quickly)

• Baked potatoes

• Corn chips / rice cakes / pretzels

• Brown rice / Jasmine long grain white rice

• Cereals (corn and oat-based)

• Sweetened fruit drinks / dried fruits / watermelon

• Sports Bars or Drinks

• Post-Game Recovery – VITAL PERIOD

  • First 30-60 minutes after competition

• Replace every pound of weight lost through sweating with 20-24 ounces of fluid

• Best concentration is 4:1 ratio carb : protein blend drink – better than water

  • 60-90 minutes after competition

• Continue to hydrate

• Recovery snack, shake or bar with 4:1 carb : protein ratio

  • Within 3 hours after competition

• Mixed Meal – combination of protein, carbs and fat

• Continue to hydrate

• NO soda, alcohol, caffeine

  • At Home

• You should be hydrating constantly

• If you are not going to the bathroom at least once every hour you are not drinking enough

• Within 24 hours after competition

Strictly Limit:

  • Alcohol, Soda, Caffeine in any form

• Dehydration, lack of sleep, and lack of nutrients are not the keys to recovery

Nutritious carbohydrate-protein recovery snacks (containing 50g CHO + valuable source of protein and micronutrients)

• 250-300ml liquid meal supplement

• 300g creamed rice

• 250-300ml milk shake or fruit smoothie

• 600ml low fat flavoured milk

• 1-2 sports bars (check labels for carbohydrate and protein content)

• 1 large bowl (2 cups) breakfast cereal with milk

• 1 large or 2 small cereal bars + 200g carton fruit-flavoured yoghurt

• 220g baked beans on 2 slices of toast

• 1 bread roll with cheese/meat filling + large banana

• 300g (bowl) fruit salad with 200g fruit-flavoured yoghurt

• 2 crumpets with thick spread peanut butter + 250ml glass of milk

• 300g (large) baked potato + cottage cheese filling + glass of milk

Magic of Milk in Recovery

What you consume after exercise can be one of the most powerful tools in your recovery arsenal, helping to promote rehydration & refuelling, plus muscle repair & adaptation. Nutrients key to achieving these recovery goals include fluid & electrolytes (for rehydration), carbs (for refuelling) & protein (for repair & adaptation). To meet these needs in a recovery snack generally requires a combination of different foods,

for example…

– Lean meat & salad sandwich with water or juice

– Lean meat & vegetable stir fry with rice or noodles

– 1?2 Tubs of yoghurt & fruit

Milk is one of the few foods which ticks all of the recovery nutrition goals by itself. Here’s the ‘milk’ story…

The nutrient profile & practical characteristics of dairy foods can make a significant contribution towards the nutritional goals of recovery. These goals include…


– Milk & drinks based on milk provide a source of fluid & electrolytes (sodium, potassium), key to promoting rehydration

– Milk is a good source of sodium or salt, higher even than sports drinks. This, combined with the potassium & protein content promotes better fluid retention ensuring the ingested fluid stays in the blood rather than your bladder


Sweetened dairy drinks (flavoured milk, smoothies), dairy desserts (yoghurt, custard, rice cream) are good sources of carbohydrate & have other advantages as well, including…

– Easy to consume, even when your appetite backs off after a hard session

– Variations in fat/sugar content mean individual athlete needs can be met by different products (see milk guide below)

– The additional protein in milk enhances recovery of muscle energy reserves, especially when fuel food intake is less than ideal


Dairy foods contribute significant amounts of high biological value protein

– Dairy proteins, particularly the whey sub?fraction (that’s where whey protein comes from…yes milk), have been shown to be superior to other protein sources in maximising the protein building response to resistance exercise & other forms of exercise

– Blood amino acid profile following consumption of quickly digested proteins appears to promote superior protein building in response to exercise.

Finally, dairy foods contain an array of other nutrients (including calcium, vitamin D) that support the function of the body & may be consumed to support the acute energy & macronutrient needs associated with a bout of hard training exercise.

What milk is best for me …

Low fat milk: The unleaded version, best for those trying to maintain or reduce body fat levels

Reduced fat milk: The great all-rounder, reduced in fat but still maintains that great milky taste

Full cream milk: A great energy booster when trying to gain weight or prevent unwanted weight loss

Flavoured milk: Packed with extra carbs, an excellent post session re-fueller.


So-Called “Energy Drinks” like Red Bull, Venom, Adrenaline Rush, 180, and Iso Sprint contain very high levels of caffeine and other stimulants, as well as huge amounts of sugar. They DO NOT provide the kind of sustained energy you need for athletic competition, and can have exactly the opposite effect by causing poor or lack of sleep, “crashing” when the caffeine wears off, and nutrient-wasting, by stealing your appetite from healthy foods and fluids. Energy drinks can also cause significant dehydration, as well as raising your heart rate and blood pressure; three things you should avoid at all costs on game day!