Meal Planning for Athletes

One of the trickiest things to manage is meal planning around athletic events.

The timing of meals is very important and needs to be individualized. It is important for athletes to discover which foods they like that also help to maximize performance. They should not experiment with new foods or new routines on the day of competition.

General guidelines include eating meals a minimum of 3 h before an event to allow for proper digestion and to minimize incidence of gastrointestinal upset during exercise. Meals should include carbohydrates, protein and fat. Fibre should be limited. High-fat meals should be avoided before exercise because they can delay gastric-emptying, make athletes feel sluggish and thereby adversely affect performance. For early morning practices or events, having a snack or liquid meal 1 h to 2 h before exercise, followed by a full breakfast after the event, will help ensure sufficient energy to maximize performance.

Pre-game snacks or liquid meals should be ingested 1 h to 2 h before an event to allow for digestion before start of exercise. Snacks can include fresh fruit, dried fruit, a bowl of cereal with milk, juice or fruit-based smoothies. During an event, sports drinks, fruit or granola bars can be ingested to help refuel and keep energy levels high.

Abstract from Sport Nutrition for Young Athletes by Laura K Purcell.

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