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If you're preparing for a big game or want to get the most out of your workout sessions, you need to know how to fuel yourself effectively. Motivating yourself to work out can be a challenge, but if you know how to fuel yourself up correctly, your body will feel more willing to keep going and get the most out of your training.
Nutrition, hydration, and electrolyte balance are critical parts of a workout and good athletic performance, and this guide will teach you the best ways to fuel up before, during and after a game or training.
What to Eat Before a Big Game or Workout Session
Before any high-intensity sport or training, there are two main things to focus on getting into your system — water and carbs. When you exercise, you lose water through sweat, and staying hydrated helps maintain your body's regular functions. Carbs give you the energy your body needs to get through a game or workout. But you need to pace yourself with your pre-game meals and give your system time to digest and process everything to get the most energy and avoid cramps.
Here are some meal suggestions broken down into different time frames before your game. Just pick one that best suits you and your pre-game time management:
- Over two hours before: A substantial meal is best to eat two hours before your game. Your meal should include 6-8 ounces of lean protein — fish, turkey and grilled chicken are the ideal protein sources for this option. This meal should also include 1.5 cups of high-fiber pasta or rice and about 2 cups of vegetables.
- Between one and two hours before: Starch-based foods like bread and low-fiber pasta and rice are easily digested within an hour or two before your game. Turkey sandwiches with low-fat cheese are the easiest to eat and prepare. Burrito bowls with white rice, tomato and chicken but with no guacamole or sour cream are healthy meals that give you a lot of energy and are easy on the stomach.
- An hour before: The best food to eat an hour before a big game is snacks that are quick to digest. Try fruits like watermelon and oranges. Or, reach for low-fat Greek yogurt with cereal, peanut butter, nuts, low-fiber cereal bars, sports drinks, a buttered bagel, or oats made with water or low-fat milk.
- Half an hour before: Be careful about what you eat this close to the start of the game or your workout. Things that are digested very easily are the only foods you should be eating at this point. Foods like vegetables, whole grains and fruits are good options — they're also high in protein, fat and fiber.
You will also need to get the right amount of water in your body before you start playing. Proper hydration is the key to reducing your risk of injuries and will boost your performance. If you lose more than 2% of your body weight from sweating, your reaction times and decision-making abilities take a hit.
So, two to four hours before vigorous exercise, drink 2-4 milliliters of water per pound of your body weight. That means a 150-pound athlete would drink 300 to 600 milliliters (roughly 10-20 fluid ounces) of water or an electrolyte sports drink before their big game.
Restoring Energy During Game Time and Training
Eating during a workout or game refills your energy needs and keeps you going. Snacks and energy drinks are most effective for workout sessions and physical activities lasting more than an hour. Here's a list of what you can have and what to avoid when restoring energy during a game or your training:
- Have: 16-32 ounces of water or a sports drink.
- Have: Watermelon and orange slices.
- Avoid: Sugary snacks and drinks. They will not give you an energy boost. Avoid candy, fruit juice and soda, for example.
- Avoid: Caffeine and energy drinks (not sports drinks — there is a difference).
- Avoid: Bread, pasta and other refined carbs.
Electrolytes are crucial for helping the body with muscle contractions, fluid balancing, preserving energy and conducting nerve impulses. These functions will keep your body going during intense physical activities, which is why sports drinks that restore electrolytes are so important.
Meals to Eat After Training and Big Games
What you eat after your game and workouts is just as important as what to eat before and during them. During demanding physical activities, your body uses glycogen for energy.Glycogen is a form of stored glucose that's kept in your body and muscles. After you've given it your all during your game or at the gym, your muscles have depleted their source of glycogen and start to break down. This is a list of snacks, meals and drinks to help your body restore glycogen and refuel after your big game:
- Drinks: Protein shakes made with protein powder and fruits like bananas are effective for energy restoration and taste good. There are loads of protein shake recipes to try out, whether you'd rather have something sweet or something fruity.
- Meals: For protein, try grilled salmon and a baked sweet potato, or enjoy some grilled chicken. Vegetarians can enjoy a veggie omelet, salad with roasted chickpeas or almonds, bean burritos, or steamed vegetables and tofu to get their protein. Oatmeal is a great quick option if you're craving something post-workout on the sweeter side.
- Snacks: If you don't have time for a full meal, grab some snacks. Protein bars, jerky and hard-boiled eggs are great protein options. Or, you could munch on an apple, hummus and crackers, rice cakes, or yogurt.
Post-workout and post-game hydration are also important. Be sure to drink 16 to 24 ounces of fluid for every pound of weight you lose during exercise. This will support muscle recovery and ensure the body still has all the fluids it needs. Just avoid drinking more than 1.5 liters in an hour.
Get Advice, Get Fit and Get Training With Spooky Nook Sports
At Spooky Nook Sports, we have the fitness and training facilities any athlete and gym-goer needs. Our fitness center, personal trainers, sports performance training and senior programs are all designed to give everyone the workout they want. From athletes who want to take their game to the next level to families and friends who want to work out together, Spooky Nook has everything you need.
Find out more about what we can do to inspire you and facilitate the workout and training you've been seeking in Manheim, Pennsylvania. You can also contact us to learn more, ask questions and book any of our services.
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