12 foods you should eat before playing sport

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Posted by Elliott York - 12 October, 2017

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Knowing what you should and shouldn't be eating before training or a big game can sometimes prove to be a challenge. 

Different places will tell you different things, so becoming confused about how to best prepare your body before playing sport is something many of us have faced. 


One thing to remember is to stick to foods that you enjoy and are comfortable eating. Many of you may already have your favourite pre-game meal that you think works, so stick with it on game days for the time being and try something different before a training session, to see if you can feel a difference.  

Getting the right ingredients into your body to fuel you for your task ahead is pivotal, so we've tried to make your life easier by listing some foods that are great to consume before playing sport. 

1. Cereals

Wholegrain cereals are a great way to get your energy into your body, especially if you're going to be active in the morning. Avoid the sugary cereals if possible, the types of breakfast you want to be aiming for is things like porridge oats or granola, topped with reduced fat milk or soya milk.

 

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Adding some fruit to your bowl, such as a chopped banana or a mixture of berries, is also a great option for you in the morning along with some fat-free yogurt. 

2. Bananas 

Banana's are one of the best pre-game foods that you can have, hence why you see so many professional athletes eating them before, during and after they have played their sport. 

They're very rich in potassium, a mineral that is essential when trying to optimise your performance levels on the pitch as it aids the movement of muscles, your bodies water levels and also helps prevent the dreaded cramp. 

Banana's also release instant and effective energy through their carbohydrate and sugar levels. Having a few bites at half time, for example, will stand you in good stead when the going gets tough in the latter stages of the game. 

3. Whole grain toast

I'm sure most people like a round or two of toast from time to time, so before playing sport, try and make sure you're eating whole grain toast. Whole grain bread contains nutritious B vitamins, iron, magnesium and fibre, the goodness that is taken out of white bread. 

The great thing about bread and toast is that you can have it with a lot of other foods that make up a great pre-game meal. 

4. Baked beans 

If you love your beans on toast in the morning, like many of us do, then there's no need for you to stop. 

Baked beans are packed full of protein and fibre and contain hardly any fat, making them a cheap and tasty option for you before a game. 

Former England footballer Alan Shearer used to love chicken and beans before he played his games..maybe this is something for you to try. 

5. Eggs 

Eggs provide us with a great source of protein and if you're feeling adventurous, what about having some scrambled eggs with beans on toast in the morning to really fuel you for the day ahead?

Omelets are also a fantastic meal option because you're able to mix in whatever you'd like with them. Ingredients such as meat, fish and vegetables all taste great and whilst omelets are great, it is important to add some carbohydrates to them to give you that slow releasing energy your body will crave. 

6. Fish 

Fish provides your body with a fantastic dose of protein, crucial for the building and repairing of muscles before and after you play sport. Fish also contains vital omega-3 fatty acids within its oils, something that helps fight fatigue and improve circulation, both highly beneficial when playing sport which the body can't provide by itself. 

7. Pasta

I'm pretty sure most of us will have asked their parents to serve up a huge plate of pasta the night before a big game. The Italian dish is popular with top-level athletes too and there is good reason for this. 

 

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Pasta is full of carbohydrates, which slowly release their energy, so your cardiovascular levels are maintained throughout. These healthy carbohydrates can be easily digested, allowing your body to use the energy quickly. 

8. Rice 

Brown or long grain white rice is another food that is a great source of carbohydrates. Rice is easy to prepare and goes with plenty of your favourite foods, such as meat and vegetables, that will provide you with a strong pre-sport meal. 

In many respects, rice and pasta are very similar and with both, portion control is important. Don't overdo it and consume too many carbohydrates before playing sport, as this will direct blood to your digestive system instead of your muscles when you become active. 

A general rule to consumption is to eat between 20 to 40 grams of carbohydrates one to two hours before playing sport. 

9. Chicken 

Chicken is one of the healthiest meats you can consume when you consider how high in vitamins and minerals and low in fat it is. 

 

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The meat is packed full of protein and can be eaten and prepared in a variety of ways, so adding some to your favourite meals, such as pasta, is an easy way to get a first class pre-sport meal into your body. 

10. Yogurt 

Eating yogurt as part of a balanced diet is important and it can provide you with a very healthy and beneficial breakfast before a big game. 

Being a dairy product, it provides you with a good source of calcium, a significant mineral to both bone and muscle strength. 

Try to make sure the yogurt you're eating has low levels of sugar and other additives in, mixing yogurts such as Greek-style yogurt with some fruit in the morning will inject your body with some fantastic nutrients. 

11. Energy bars 

There are an array or energy bars that are available in your local supermarkets and across the internet, so how do you know which ones you should be eating?

 

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Short bursts of exercise, such as sprinting, will require you to only top up your glycogen levels that are already in your body. Glycogen is the substance that your body predominantly what your muscles burn during moderate to high intensity activity, so consuming a bar that has 25 to 40 grams of carbohydrates in will be favourable. 

Alternatively, if you're going to be playing a rugby match, for example, an energy bar that contains 30 to 60 carbohydrates will be advantageous. The carbohydrates in energy bars can raise blood sugar levels and provide glycogen to the body, something that will deplete if they aren't topped up before you play. 

12. Water

Okay, this isn't technically classed as a food, but hydrating your body with the correct amount of water is paramount. 

According to the American Council on Exercise, you should be consuming 17 to 20 ounces (at least half a litre) of water two to three hours before playing sport. 

 

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Then, 30 minutes prior to your exercise, drink another eight ounces (227 ml) of water to fully hydrate yourself. Isotonic sports drinks such as Lucozade Sport can be consumed before and during your sport too, as they do a good job of replenishing fluids lost through sweat and supplies a boost of carbohydrates.  

Topics: Pre-match, Nutrition


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