Fueling the Athlete: Game Day Nutrition


Graphic/Charlotte Clarke

It’s game day. Whether you are the star running back on the football team or a setter for the volleyball team, you need energy for the long day ahead. The question is: what should you reach for? While the decision between a bowl of cereal or an egg over-easy might seem trivial, choosing the right foods for game day is essential. 


It is important to start your day with a balanced meal⁠—including both carbohydrates and protein⁠—and to focus on hydrating properly. The sugars in carbohydrates will give your body sufficient energy to last you through the beginning of your school day. Protein also helps you start your day off right: it will keep you satisfied throughout the morning and early afternoon to prevent hunger pangs. A breakfast of oatmeal—free of extra sugars— with nut butter and fruit or eggs with toast plated with ham or bacon carry the carbs and protein for starting your game day off right.  Hydrating is important to give your body the fluids it needs before sweating out salts, water and electrolytes during the game. Popular drinks such as SmartWater or even tablets that release electrolytes into your drink are beneficial towards hydration.


You have just a few hours before the big game. Don’t let it be your first instinct to fill your plate with just one food group. Specifically, it is important not to cut out other valuable food groups during lunch. To achieve your optimal performance, you should shoot for a plentiful meal and a colorful plate. Try to fill your lunch with lean proteins, whole grains, fruits and vegetables and dairy. A sandwich with a side of fruit and vegetables or a salad with whole grains⁠—such as brown rice or quinoa⁠—will further fuel your body. Remember to hydrate as well.


Post-game feels: tired and hangry. Your body needs to recover properly, so you should lean towards protein-enriched foods, but also other food groups. Eating dinner with protein, whole grains and vegetables will replenish the nutrients your body needs and help nourish you for success the next day. Cooking chicken, rice, potatoes and vegetables serve as a simple and easily-prepared post-game meal. If the game was toiling, then your body will need to replenish its electrolytes and salts. Drinking Gatorade or SmartWater is a perfectly viable option for these elements in your body. For sore muscles, protein drinks, protein bars or chocolate milk will help rebuild your muscles after working them hard for several hours. In addition to these-nutrient packed drinks, water is the most essential part of any athlete’s diet—hydrate, hydrate, HYDRATE!