How to Eat Before You Compete

healthy trail running

Timing, size and nutrient combination of a meal or snack go hand in hand.  Whether eating at home or on the go, the pre-event meal should be high in carbohydrate, moderate in protein and lower in fat.  This power-fuel combination is easy to digest and gives the athlete the confidence needed to fulfill their call of duty!

Whether eating at home or on-the-go, the goal is to ensure that food and fluid do not hinder but rather enhance exercise performance.

Pre-Performance Sport Nutrition Planning

Timing Pre-EventGuidelinesMeal/Snack Ideas
3 – 4 hours FULL MEAL:High carbohydrate

Moderate protein

Decreased fat, avoid fried foods

Fluid

 

 

-Pasta with tomato based meat sauce, dinner roll, fruit salad with low fat yogurt and water/low fat  milk/fruit juice 

-Grilled chicken sandwich (mayo on the side), low fat muffin, and low fat milk/juice

 

-Lean meat wrap/sub with veggies and low fat dressing or cheese.  Apple slices.  Milk-2-Go.

 

2 – 3 hoursSMALLER MEAL:High carbohydrate

Lower-Moderate Protein

Low fat

Fluid

 

-Turkey sandwich, mustard, hold the mayo.  Banana. Milk 

-Oatmeal cooked in milk topped with yogurt and fruit. Water

 

-Large fruit smoothie made with milk & low fat muffin

1 – 2 hoursSNACK:High carbohydrate

Lower protein

Low fat

Fluid

 

-Low fat cottage cheese, apple, crackers and juice 

-Low fibre breakfast cereal, sliced banana with low fat milk

 

-Liquid meal (nervous stomach)

 

< 1 hourSMALL SNACK:High carbohydrate

Low to no protein

Low to no fat

Fluid

 

-Cereal based trail mix and water/juice 

-Jam/honey sandwich and water

 

-Piece of fruit

< 30 minutes MINI SNACK:High Carbohydrate

No protein

No fat

Fluid

 

-Sport drink (can be home made…1/2 fruit juice, ½ water, pinch of salt) 

-Fruit/vegetable juice

 

-Pretzels and apple sauce (or other pureed fruit)

 

Plan ahead and be prepared!  Remember, the purpose of the pre-event meal or snack is to top up energy stores and hydrate so the athlete can perform their personal best.

Summary…

  1. Plan and prepare meals and snacks in advance so that nutrition is not left to chance.
  2. Choose high carbohydrate, low fat foods that are familiar and well tolerated.
  3. Stay hydrated throughout the day up until your event.
  4. Experiment and practice with type and timing of meals and snacks in training.
  5. Try liquid or low fibre meals if pre-event nerves or other gastrointestinal upset arise.
  6. Keep track by monitoring what works so you have a solid eating plan the day of competition. 
  1. Work with a dietitian who has experience working with athletes.

Meals  & Snack at Home or On-the-Go

At HomeAt the Deli/Gas StationFast Food/Canteen 
Meals:Pasta with low-fat tomato sauce

Dinner roll

Orange

Low-fat yogurt

Water/low fat milk/juice

 

Pancakes with yogurt & berries, ham, and juice

 

 

Lean meat sandwich, veggies, low fat dressing/cheese

Apple slices

Milk-2-Go/juice/water

 

Minestrone soup, crackers, yogurt with fruit salad, and juice

 

 

Grilled chicken sandwich, sauce on the side

Apple slices/yogurt parfait

Milk/juice

 

Bagel with peanut butter and jam

Milk

 

Snacks:Nut with cocoa spread and banana wrap

Milk

 

Smoothie with low fat muffin

 

Homemade sports drink (1/2 juice, ½ water, pinch of salt)

Raisins & pretzels

Sports drink

 

Fruit bars, low fat cereal bars

 

Crackers & cheese strings

 

Oatmeal cookies & low fat milk

 

Trail mix & cereal

Milk/Chocolate milk

 

Cereal bars

 

Pretzels (hard)

 

Fruit bar

 

Juice

 

 

Food choices will be based on preferences, meal timing and where you will be.  Keeping a backpack with snack options can save an athlete from having to make poor choices before the event.

Teams that plan together will perform better!