Knowing the right foods to eat, and the right time to eat them, can make all the difference in becoming a champion or not. Whether it is remaining strong and focused through the last period, the last quarter or the last match, athletes need to provide their bodies with the proper nutrition in advance of competition.
CARBOHYDRATES — THE FUEL FOR WORKING MUSCLES
During activity, your body relies on stored energy to fuel your working muscles and movements. Much of that energy comes from muscle glycogen — the form of carbohydrates stored in your muscles. To make sure your body has enough muscle glycogen to use during activity, it’s important to include carbohydrate rich foods in your daily eating plan. Those carbohydrates can be found in a variety of foods, including grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy foods such as milk and yogurt and other foods and beverages with naturally occurring sugars.
TIMING, TYPE AND QUANTITY OF FOOD
Eating before competing can be a challenge for many athletes. It’s common for nerves to be high, and those nerves can get in the way of normal hunger cues. Taking the time to plan and schedule your meal is key to fueling your muscles right. The exact time, type and quantity of food you eat before competition depends on how much time you have.
The closer it is to go-time, the less food you should eat. Less time to eat also means choosing foods that are easier to digest. Certain nutrients such as fiber, fat and protein remain in the stomach longer than simpler forms of carbohydrates. If you eat those foods too close to competition, they might not have enough time to digest, and that could leave you with an upset stomach or other gastrointestinal issues.
And don’t forget to refuel after exercise. Check out this post about recovery nutrition for athletes.