Game Day Nutrition for Young Athletes


It's tournament season for a lot of athletes and the coaches at Maximize Potential want to make sure every athlete is fueling their body right during those long, strenuous competitions.  Proper nutrition can be the deciding factor between making it to the championship game or being eliminated early.  Below is an example of what an athlete's typical day should look like during a competition.


– Pre-Game Meal:

  • 4-6 hours before the game
  • High Complex/Low GI** foods; low protein and fat
  • Hydrate well: fruit juices, sports drinks (Gatorade/Powerade), water

– 2-3 Hours before the game

  • Moderately-sized snack: more low GI foods; low protein and fat
  • Continue to hydrate
  • 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, Bang, 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
  • 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!


Post-Game Recovery – VITAL PERIOD

– First 30-60 minutes after the 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 the competition

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

– Within 3 hours after the competition

  • Mixed Meal – a combination of protein, carbs, and fat
  • Continue to hydrate
  • NO soda, alcohol, caffeine

– Bus or Plane Ride Home

  • Athletes 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


**What are Low and High GI Carbs?**

  • 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 fiber 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
  • Rice/Grains (Boiled white and long grain/rice pilaf/cornmeal)
  • Bread 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; some may also be eaten within the last 30-60 minutes before competition, at halftime, or between periods)

  • Baked potatoes/Hash browns
  • 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


**Remember: Gameday nutrition and recovery are vital to successful performance week in and week out, but eating well on game day only works if you are eating well all week. Don’t wait for the pregame meal to get everything you think you need. Approach your nutrition with the same discipline as your training and you will maximize your potential as an athlete!


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