Back in my day before a football match my mum’s go to lunch or pre-game meal for me was always a big bowl of tuna-pasta.
Thankfully nutrition research has come a long way since those days and although she wasn’t totally off with her ideas behind the meal it’s worth knowing as a parent that there are now better strategies and principles that could give your child a competitive edge come game day.
It’s useful to note that everything I’m about to share with you in regards to your child’s nutrition isn’t and shouldn’t be limited to game day alone. Most of things we’ll be talking about in this article can be and should be implemented in your children’s diet regularly.
- Test Your Game Day Meals/Snacks Before Deciding What Is Best.
The goal for understanding what to eat before a match or game is really to figure out what is going to work best for your child and their performance on game day. Never try something new on game day, everyone is different and therefore will tolerate certain foods differently. Use training days to experiment with pre-training meals, snacks, beverages to find out what your child responds best too as well as what they don’t respond well on. Come game day, these experiment will pay off. You’re looking for noticeable improvements in stamina, energy and alertness. When a diet is dialled in it is not just physical markers that improve such energy and stamina or even tenacity. But cognitive function or alertness can also drastically improve, all of which are important factors on game day.
- Hydration Is Key
The best thing you can do for you child on game day is start the day off with a glass of cold water. Limit their intake of caffeinated drinks like energy drinks such as Lucozade, Gatorade or Monster etc, etc. These drinks do not improve sports performance and can actually have a negative impact on performance. Hydration can be a complicated thing, more recent research suggests the elevated levels of salt in our diet has a greater impact on our ability to stay hydrated so it would be worth thinking of adding additional rock salts to foods or even adding salt through supplementation to boost hydration levels pre, during and post games/training.
- Understand The Role Of Carbohydrates In Sport
Carbohydrates are an essential energy source for the brain, red blood cells and muscles during moderate to high-intensity exercise. The body’s stores of carbohydrates are limited, so it is necessary to consume enough carbohydrates daily, as well as just before exercise. Your carbohydrate selections are important, each person usually tolerates carb selections differently so you should experiment. Slow release Carbs need to be eaten 2-3 hours before a game and fast release carbs can be consumed closer to a game but should be measured precisely as they are easier to over eat. With all that being said, the best source of carbohydrates for you and your kids are going to be whole food carbohydrates. Think green, leafy vegetables, local & exotic fruits. Yes you can eat bread, rice, pasta etc, etc but again these things should be weighed and measured for best results.
Examples of what to eat on game day.
Let’s imagine a scenario that your child has a football match or gymnastics meet at 3pm.
Breakfast Ideas 8am
(The key thing to focus on in this meal would be Fats & Protein.)
- 2-3 Eggs, 1/2 Avocado, 1-2 Slices of nut butter toast, 1/2 an apple, handful of blueberries, salt & pepper seasoning, 1 cup of water.
- Greek Yoghurt, Blueberries, Strawberries, Almond Flakes, Sprinkle of Trail mix, 1-2 Boiled eggs and 1 cup of water.
- Porridge Oats with whole fat milk, protein powder, nuts & seeds, handful of blueberries and 1 cup of water.
Snack Ideas 10.30am
- 1/2 Apple, 2 tea spoons of nut butter, water.
- 1 Boiled egg, teaspoon of nut butter , 1/2 cucumber
- Protein shake with added fruits and veggies.
Lunch Ideas 12pm
- Measured amount of pasta ( 1-2 fist fulls ) chicken breast and 2-3 fist fulls of veggies.
- Measured amount of rice, salmon, veggies seasoned with salt, pepper and lemon juice.
- Turkey Mince and grilled mediterranean vegetables burrito.
Pre-Game Snack 2/2.30pm
- Single Espresso shot, Handful of fruit
- Homemade fruit & nut bar
- 1 slice of toast with almond butter
- Hummus with a whole grain cracker
Post Game or Match (within 30 minutes since finishing)
The goal here is to replenish essential minerals lost through exercise, you want to get protein, fats and carbohydrates in within 30-45 minutes of finishing exercise.
- Protein shake with added fruits and vegetables
- Banana with almond or peanut butter
- Greek yogurt topped with granola or fruit
- Chocolate milk
- Homemade protein bar
All in all and as I said in the beginning of this article, there isn’t really any rocket science in getting the most from your food. The key things you need to remember are ;
- Your foods should mostly be whole foods (foods you can find, catch, grow, pick or kill, these are located within the first 3 isles of every supermarket.)
- You need a balance on the plate of fats, carbs and protein. A good rule of thumb that we have had success with is 40% Carb, 30% Protein and 30% Fat. Fats are brain food, you need to eat whole source fats, they are essential.
- Drink water and plenty of it throughout the day.
- Experiment with all of the above and document your findings, you don’t want to rely on simply how you felt, you want more tangible evidence.
I hope that helps.
If you’re interested in working with our Nutrition Coaches please reach out to us by booking a no sweat intro or visiting our nutrition coaching page on our website.