Neal Prokop & Jeff Wood / Sport Performance Specialists
Brianne Collette & Casey Kunzelman-Gall / Sport Performance Graduate Dietitians
Playing a lot of games in a short period of time requires some planning to help athletes perform at their best each and every game. Check out our tips to help teams prepare and perform at their best over the weekend while enjoying their time together, building memories, competing hard and having fun!
Check out the grocery store before checking in
Buying food from the grocery store can not only be cost effective but also give you more control over what you eat while away from home! Buy fruits, pre-cut veggies, milk/chocolate milk, and other non-perishable items such as pretzels, crackers, bread, etc. to keep you energized throughout the tournament. Focusing on whole foods and less processed items will make sure you are fueling your body with adequate nutrients that will help you perform your best!
Pre-game, pre-practice, and pre-training nutrition
Pre-game meals should be rich in carbohydrates (bread, fruit, rice), moderate protein (chicken, tuna, eggs), and lower in fat (oils, nuts, avocado, cheese, etc.). This meal should be eaten approximately 1-3 hours prior to competition or training, as tolerated by the athlete. Avoiding foods high in fiber is also important as this can lead to an upset stomach and slow digestion. During competition, a small snack 30-15 minutes prior to warm-up can be used to maximizing your energy! This snack should be simple carbohydrates, like fruit or a small granola bar.
During intense training and games, it’s important to maintain energy levels to avoid any effect on performance. If you have games or training sessions over 1 hour in length, adding in a carbohydrate drink or easily digestible food can help you top up your energy stores! Simple foods like dried fruit, bananas, and pretzels can do the trick. While water should be your go-to during competition, long duration training can mean a need for more carbohydrates. Gatorade and similar sports drinks can be used in these situations. Pro tip: make your own sport drink by diluting ¼ cup fruit juice in 2 cups water and a pinch of salt.
Within 60 minutes of competing, athletes should consume a small meal consisting of easily digestible carbohydrate and some protein. Examples are chocolate milk, apple and cheese, or a small can of tuna and crackers. Then, in the three hours following a competition, athletes should eat a complete meal made up of protein, starchy carbohydrates, healthy fats, vegetables, and fruit. This will help replenish energy and protein levels to kick start repairing damaged tissues and refuel your muscles.
Water is key
Water is essential to healthy, active bodies and is the medium in which virtually all of your body’s chemical reactions take place. Dehydration negatively effects performance. The National Research Council recommends drinking 2-2.5 litres of water for females and 2.5-3 litres for men daily. If you’re adding exercise into the mix, be sure to up your water intake to make up for the loss during your workout. Drink at least one full water bottle leading up to, and during each game. Continue drinking water throughout the rest of the day.
Eating at restaurants during a tournament weekend can challenge your nutrition plans. Follow these guidelines to stay on track:
- grilled, baked, or poached meats
- simmered, steamed or fresh fish or seafood
- grilled or marinated meats
- red or white wine sauces
- steamed vegetables
- pasta primavera
- picante, marinara, salsa sauces
- whole grains (quinoa, breads, oatmeal, etc.)
- lots of veggies: lettuce, diced tomatoes, onions
- battered, fried or deep-fried meats
- crisp noodles
- sweet and sour sauces
- cream, alfredo, or mayonnaise sauces
- gravy or butter sauces
- refried items (unless without lard)
- sour cream, guacamole
- cheese topped, stuffed, or heavy meals
Get your Rest
Athletes need a minimum of 8 hours quality sleep per night. When athletes sleep, the body repairs and recovers from a long day’s work. To improve sleeping during tournaments, avoid late-night texting, bring ear plugs and your own pillow, and reduce or eliminate caffeine before bed. Consider a sleep routine leading into a competition; pay attention to your schedule, and wake up and go to sleep at the same time every night to stay consistent.
Stretch, Maintain Mobility, and Roll it out
Athletes should foam roll, stretch, and ice whenever possible or needed to avoid sore, tight muscles. With so many competitions in a short period of time, stiffness and soreness can accumulate quickly by the end of the week. Always take time to do a proper warm up, take care of your body, and address any discomfort immediately.
Trust your team
Stick to your game plan and adapt accordingly. Even if things don’t go your way from the start, it’s important to stay with it! Trust your teammates, coaches, and your training to pull you through. Trust that your teammates will be mentally prepared, are eating and sleeping right, and are doing what they need to perform at their best. If everyone takes care of themselves, you’ll be part of a team that is always ready to be at their best!