Elevating Athlete Nutrition - Pregame FUEL

Feel like you’re hearing all kinds of nutrition information everywhere? I sure do! It’s on the news, all over Facebook feeds, in magazines, on Instagram…  It can be hard to decipher what is real, and what is not! So, I am here to give you science based professional advice that IS real! Nutrition is a tool for you to use. Food can affect your performance positively, or negatively. Let’s work on putting food in to fuel us the right way.


Don’t Run On Empty

Running to practices or games on empty? Think about what happens to a car when it runs out of gas. The same thing happens to your body when you work out without food. Your body is your vehicle. You need to keep your engine running by providing it with fuel when you have practices and games. The American College of Sports Medicine agrees, they say, “adequate food and fluid should be consumed before exercise to help maintain blood glucose concentration during exercise, maximize exercise performance, and improve recovery time.”  

Besides providing your body with fuel to enhance movement, food brings nutrients and energy in the form of glucose to the bloodstream. Your brain’s main fuel source is glucose coming from carbohydrates in food. The nutrients and energy in your blood influences your ability to think. If your blood sugars drop, you’ll bonk and lose both focus, and energy.

Now we understand why it is so important to always fill your tank before you exercise. Great! But, what exactly should we be eating before games and practices, you ask? Great question! Everybody has different tolerances with pre-exercise foods. Some athletes who I’ve talked to report they don’t eat before because they’re afraid that the food might cause stomach issues. This can be helped by training your GI tract by nibbling on a snacks to enhance stamina, endurance, and power of your exercise. If you aren’t used to snacking before, start small and gradually increase. You’ll be more or less training your body to be used to having food before you exercise.

Let’s talk about what to do to keep your tank full. Here is what I recommend!

When To Eat

1-2 hours before a practice or a long day of games. This allows enough time for you body to digest the food, but not too long that it is out of your system when you go to your game/practice. Tip: Make a list of a few snacks you would enjoy. The key is planning these ahead. You’ll need to know where you’re going to be 1-2 hours before your practices/games, and will need to carry the snack with you.

What To Eat

You should be eating a high carbohydrate snack/meal that contains around 30-60g of healthy carbohydrates (whole grain cereals, whole wheat toast, low fat or fat free yogurt, whole grain pasta, brown rice, fruits, and vegetables). You want to avoid saturated fat (think burgers, pastries, pizza, fried foods, chips). These types of fuels take longer to digest in your stomach and take away oxygen and energy delivering blood from your muscles.

10 Pre-Workout Snacks Ideas

  • Peanut butter and honey sandwich on wheat bread (1 tablespoon of peanut butter and a drizzle of honey). Great combination of healthy fat and protein, plus the whole grain fiber bread keeps the optimal combination of nutrients to stay fueled for a longer workout.
  • Smoothie with 1 cup low fat milk, 1 cup frozen fruit,  ¾ cup Greek yogurt and ½ cup ice
  • ½ wheat bagel with 1Tbsp nut butter + 1Tbsp jam or honey
  • Peanut butter and banana wrap in a wheat tortilla
  • 1 cup homemade trail mix include fruit, granola, almonds, peanuts, cashews with dried, a pinch of salt and even bits of pretzels and dark chocolate chips
  • Pretzels with a banana or apple easy to pack snack, pretzels are high in carbs and sodium, which you lose in sweat
  • ½ cup steel cut oats with skim milk and 1 cup strawberries
  • 2 whole grain waffles with 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 cup Cheerios with 1 cup non-fat milk and 1 banana
  • ¼ cup dried fruit with low fat yogurt

If you only have 5-10 minutes before you exercise, eat a piece of fruit such as an apple or banana. It’s better than nothing!

Also note, you need to pair your pre-game snacks with the right fluids. The goal with hydration is to prevent dehydration by drinking enough water throughout the day. Aim for 16oz with your meal to keep away the sluggish feelings.

I hope you are ready to stay fueled for your next practice or match! This is definitely better than nothing!  The next thing we talk about is going to be how to “re-fuel” your engine. Stay tuned!

Eat power food, be powerful. If you need any questions answered, shoot me an email at elevatemynutrition@gmail.com


Lindsay Wexler, RDN, CSSD, LD

Clinical Dietitian, Board Certified Sports Dietitian

Website: ElevateMyNutrition.com (<--- lots of great recipes!)

Email: elevatemynutrition@gmail.com