3 foods to avoid before practices and games

By Lindsay Langford MS, RD, CSSD | Posted 11/14/2017

A strong gameday nutrition program starts with a bigger picture look at an athlete’s diet.

How you fuel your body before a game or practice can still have major performance benefits. Here are some items to avoid eating as part of a pregame meal.

  • Fatty foods. It seems easy, but athletes often forget to steer clear of any high-fat foods. That includes fried foods – including French fries, chicken strips, fried chicken and onion rings – and fatty cuts of meat such as hamburgers and bacon.
  • Too much protein. Normally, protein sounds good, and it does play an important role in a football player’s overall diet, but not in large quantities before a game. So, stay away from protein shakes or protein bars. You can find a good amount of pregame protein in other ways.
  • Artificial sweeteners. Be careful with artificial sweeteners. They can mess with digestion, and the last thing anyone wants during a game is an upset stomach.

Good pregame fuel

On game days, focus on eating clean foods and staying hydrated. Monitor urine color on game day. It sounds silly, but you want it in the light lemonade or even clear shade. If you get into the apple juice shades, hydration levels are lacking.

Pregame meals are really a two-part program. Eat a bigger meal two to four hours before go time. Carbohydrates are key with a moderate amount of protein, adding in some antioxidants if possible. Try a pasta dish with some lean ground turkey meat sauce, or a chicken stir fry with lots of rice and veggies.

As kickoff approaches, follow it up with a small snack or sports drink about 30 to 60 minutes before the game. Carbohydrates are key here, so try gummy snacks like Gatorade Energy Chews, Clif Shot Bloks or PowerBar Energy Blasts.

I hope these tips help you fuel for performance on game day.

This is an updated version of a blog that originally posted Nov. 25, 2014.

Lindsay Langford is a registered dietitian and board-certified specialists in sports dietetics for St. Vincent Sports Performancein Indianapolis. She has experience in clinical nutrition, endurance coaching and nutrition coaching for athletes and teams in the NFL, NHL, NBA and IRL as well as elite level endurance athletes.