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January 31, 2019 • Fitness, Kids Health

What Your Kids Should Eat Before Their Next Game

I am frequently queried about nutrition in the realm of athletic performance.  Although the specifics can vary dependent on the type of sport or activity – the broad lessons remain the same and are as follows:


By far the single greatest impact from food/diet on an athlete’s  performance derives from day to day nutrition overtime.  Meaning, it’s the overall quality of an athlete’s diet, or lack there of, that matters the most.  Quite simply the healthier the diet overtime, the better the performance and vice versa.

The second most impactful aspect of diet on performance rests on the “pre-competition” meal.  The general features of the optimal pre-game feeding include the following:

  • High in carbs, low in fat, moderate in protein
  • The ideal carbs are those that are high in essential nutrients and fiber — namely fruits, veggies, whole grains and beans.  Because of their high fiber make-up these carbs release their energy (glucose) more gradually and over a longer period of time which is optimal.  Refined, processed carbs like white flour products, white potatoes, sugars and sweets release their glucose abruptly and do not generally provide long lasting energy.
  • Fats should be kept low and should come from the healthy, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated varieties.  Good choices include olive oil, nuts, seeds, oily fish and avocados.  Trans fats (fried fast food, processed foods containing hydrogenated oil or shortening) should be strictly avoided.  Saturated fats (fatty cuts of red meat, whole dairy foods, butter) should be kept at a minimum.  Both trans fats and saturated fats have immediate adverse effects on blood flow that can last several hours.  Muscles rely on robust blood flow for optimal action.

Keeping the above strategies in mind, the following foods would be very bad choices:  fried foods (especially fried fast foods), junk snack foods, hot dogs, burgers, sausage, donuts and pastries.


When my sons were teenagers – and competitive athletes – some examples of the types of meals I encouraged them to eat prior to competition were:

  • Bean burritos or any bean-based meals (beans are awesome for long-lasting energy)
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on 100% whole grain breads/wraps
  • Lean deli meat sandwiches or subs on whole grain or multigrain breads
  • Multigrain pasta (ex: Barilla Plus) with lean spaghetti sauce or tomato sauce.
  • Pizza made with multigrain or whole grain crust (available at most grocery stores)
  • Any lean protein — not fried (chicken, seafood, turkey, beans, eggs) with any combinations of 2 or more healthy carbs — fruit, veggies, beans or whole grains

For events lasting greater than 1 hour — you may want to consider a “quicker-to-release” carb at some point during the competition.  Good options are dried fruits, fresh fruits, sports beverages, dark chocolate and granola bars.

And finally, we can’t forget about adequate hydration.  Even marginal dehydration significantly impairs performance.  Water is definitely the healthiest form of hydration prior to an event and during activity lasting less than 1 hour.  Taking in about 16 ounces of water during the 1 to 2 hours before performance is a good goal.  For vigorous physical activity lasting beyond an hour, sports beverages are best — otherwise they have no place in healthy living.


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