Nutrition before, during and after competition

The Pre-Game Meal

Eating before competition can increase performance when compared to exercising in fasted state.
A pre-game meal three to four hours before the event allows for optimal digestion and energy supply.
Most authorities recommend small pre-game meals that provide 500 to 1,000 calories.

This meal should be sufficient but not excessive, so as to prevent both hunger and undigested food.
The meal should be high in starch, which breaks down more easily than protein and fats.

The starch should be in the form of complex carbohydrates: (Nutrition before)
breads, cold cereal, pasta, fruits and vegetables.

They are digested at a rate that provides consistent energy to the body and are emptied from the stomach in two to three hours.
High-sugar foods lead to a rapid rise in blood sugar, followed by a decline in blood sugar and less energy.
In addition, concentrated sweets can draw fluid into the gastrointestinal tract and contribute to dehydration, cramping, nausea and diarrhea.

Don’t consume any carbohydrates one and a half to two hours before an event. This may lead to premature exhaustion of glycogen stores in endurance events.
Pregame meals should be low in fat. Fat takes longer to digest, as does fiber- and lactose-containing meals.
Take in adequate fluids during this pre-game time.

Carefully consider caffeine consumption (cola, coffee, tea), as it may lead to dehydration by increasing urine production.
It is important to eat familiar foods before an event, so it is known that they can be tolerated before exercise.
Smaller meals should be consumed if less time remains before an event.
If a competition is less than two hours away, athletes may benefit from consuming a liquid pre-game meal to avoid gastrointestinal distress.

A liquid meal will move out of the stomach by the time a meet or match begins. Remember to include water with this meal.
You could eat a small snack between your pre-exercise meal and exercise to top up energy levels.
If you do, it is best to wait 30-60 minutes before taking part in any vigorous sports or exercise.

During Exercise:

Consuming some carbohydrates during exercise can enhance performance but this generally only applies to individuals participating in endurance or high intensity sports that last over 60 minutes, as this is when carbohydrate stores may substantially decrease (e.g. marathon/long distance running, football games or competitive swimming events).

It is important to consume plenty of fluids during exercise, especially if you are sweating heavily (also to replace electrolytes lost from sweating) and/or the environmental temperature is high.
Try to sip small amounts of fluids whenever possible during exercise to stay hydrated.

Don’t wait until you feel thirsty, as this is a sign that you are already partly dehydrated.
Keep sipping water before and during the activity, if possible, to keep hydration levels topped up.

The Post-Game Meal

Regardless of age, gender or sport, the post-game competition meal recommendations are the same.
Following a training session or competition, a small meal eaten within thirty minutes is very beneficial.
The meal should be mixed, meaning it contains carbohydrate, protein, and fat.

Protein synthesis is greatest during the window of time immediately following a workout and carbohydrates will help replete diminished glycogen stores.

However, consume food within the 30 minute window may be difficult for athletes—they often experience nausea or lack of hunger. Options to address this difficulty include:

• Consuming a drink that contains carbohydrates and protein.
There are several liquid smoothies and beverages on the market that provide high protein and carbohydrates for replenishment.
One classic is chocolate milk.

• If that is difficult, fruit, bread, crackers, or popsicles would all be better than not consuming any food.

• Try to have a small snack that contains carbohydrate and protein, such as a banana and a glass of low fat milk, within the first 30-60 minutes following exercise to begin the recovery process, especially if you have exercise within the next eight hours.
Don’t forget your meals should always be balanced so make sure you include fruit and vegetables to provide other important nutrients.

• To replace the fluid lost from sweating, it is vital to restore hydration levels as part of recovery, so remember to drink plenty of fluids after exercising.

Tips to plan your meals and snacks:

• Preparation: – your pre-exercise meal, whether it is breakfast or lunch, should be around 2-3 hours before and include a good amount of starchy foods to ensure you have enough fuel in the tank.
A small snack 30-60 minutes before exercise can help to top up energy levels.

• Recovery: – base your post-exercise meal on starchy foods and include some high quality, lean protein to help restore glycogen levels and muscle protein.

• Both meals should also include some fruit and vegetables.

• Good snacks for immediately after exercise should contain some protein, such as unsalted nuts or a glass of milk.

• Try to opt for wholegrain carbohydrates and high quality protein foods, as well as nutrient-rich snacks.