For a young athlete on the countdown to game day, planning a healthy and robust diet is the best way ensure the body is fueled and ready to work.
Protein is important in the training process as it can aid in developing muscles, but, on the countdown to game day, carbs and hydration are key, while incorporating all food groups. Check out our diet plan and tips to make sure you’re ready to play your best!
3-4 DAYS BEFORE GAME DAY
Carbo-Load. For workouts or performances that last longer than 90-minutes, the body performs best with carbohydrates in reserve, which is accomplished by eating a large portion of carbohydrate-based food, or “carbo-loading,” 3 to 4 days before the event. This will, in effect, give the body a storage of energy to tap into during the event.
TIP: Diets that use higher amounts for carbs and fats for energy allow more protein to go towards building muscle.
2 DAYS BEFORE GAME DAY
Keep carbo-loading. The best meals are at least half starch, a quarter protein and a quarter non-starchy vegetables.
TIP: Nutritionists advise 10-percent of daily caloric intake should be simple sugars (ie. honey, sports drinks, etc.) because they provide a quick boost of energy that will fuel workouts along with complex sugars in carbohydrates.
1 DAY BEFORE GAME DAY
Eat a carbohydrate-packed dinner; pasta or a bagel with peanut butter will be great for storing up energy the night before a big game, meet or match. And get a good night’s sleep!
TIP: Hydration should start the day before. Build up your energy by eating a carb-rich meal, taking it easy, and hydrating with water or an electrolyte-enhanced drink.
Morning: A big, well-rounded breakfast is more important than a good night’s sleep, so make it count! An omelette with toast and milk or pancakes with eggs and orange juice are good starts to game day.
2-4 hours: Athletes should eat their last meal anywhere between 2-4 hours before the event, so the stomach has time to empty. This meal should be substantial and include the ratio of starch:protein:vegetables mentioned above for 2 days prior.
30 minutes: Granola or energy bars, and other quickly-digestible snacks can give a last boost of energy if eaten at least 30 minutes beforehand, but athletes should abstain from eating any sugary or starchy foods, as it can accelerate dehydration. In the last half hour or so right before a game, an athlete should be particular about what they intake. Something too sugary or too starchy can hinder performance.
All the time: And last but most important: make sure to drink lots and lots and lots of water! Staying hydrated is the most important thing one can do for their health and is particularly critical for exercise, as dehydration can lead to cramps and fatigue. (See our article on the Effects Of Heat Stroke And What To Do When Your Child Faints).
TIP: Electrolyte-enhanced sports drinks are a great way to replenish nutrients lost during exercise from sweat.
Of course, just as procrastinating on your carbo-load and then devouring a bowl of pasta before a competition won’t help your performance much, an athlete’s diet is not only important right around game day, and needs to be worked into their regimen just as much as their workouts. A full and balanced diet with many lean meats and whole grains is the best way to ensure a growing body.
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