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The Ultimate Guide: Pre-Game Nutrition For Footy Players

by Sportitude
27 Mar 2018

Rather than diving into a mountain of spaghetti seconds before your big match, make wise nutritional choices leading up to your moment in the spotlight by following our pre-game nutrition guide for footy players. 

2 - 3 Days Before

Don’t skimp on your nutrition in the days before the big match. Boost your consumption of carbohydrates to ensure you won't run short on energy, and include a lean protein with your meals to support recovery.

The Night Before

If your stomach gets into knots with pre-game nerves, eating something heavy may do you more harm than good in the nausea department (so steer clear of steak). 

Put complex carbohydrates on your plate for slowly digested, sustainable energy such as wholegrain rice, pasta and bread. 

Just keep in mind everyone is different, and too much of a fibre hit can cause stomach problems for some athletes, in which case opting for refined options may be the safer bet. 

For pre-game dinner, eat a high carb, low fat meal complimented by a lean protein. For example:

- Pasta with grilled chicken, shrimp or lean beef with a tomato-based sauce and side of veg                 

- Chicken or fish with jacket potato or sweet potato and green vegies

- Chicken and pumpkin risotto with green vegies

Tip: Turkey is another lean, high quality protein source to team up with your high carb meal. Plant-based proteins such as beans and tofu are another nutritious option.

And, as much as we love to eat a rainbow of foods for a balanced diet, this is not the time to experiment - many footy players have a tried and tested meal they eat routinely pre-match.  

2 - 4 Hours Before Kick-Off

Consuming a meal 2 – 4 hours before the match gives your body a chance to digest and convert the nutrients into energy as it travels from the stomach and into the intestinal tract. 

It also avoids bloating or heaviness in your stomach caused by cramming in food at the last minute – as good as it tasted going down, you don’t want that chicken burrito doing loop-de-loops in your belly all match. 

Be careful not to rely on a meal eaten too early before the match – a thought-out lunch at 12pm won’t sustain you for a 7pm kick off time, leaving you an unenergised husk and putting your hard training to waste. Timing is everything, and it’s certainly worth experimenting to see what works for your body. 

Try out these high in carb pre-match meals.

- Porridge, granola or breakfast cereal (and we’re not talking about the sugary, rainbow-coloured kind!) with low fat milk or soy milk

- Muffins or toast with peanut butter/honey/jam

- Muesli with berries and low fat yoghurt

- Grilled chicken, roasted veg and quinoa

- Low fat chicken stir fry with rice, noodles or quinoa

- Chicken sandwich or wrap with salad

- Salmon/tuna with a jacket potato and corn (chow down on the potato skins - they’re full of nutrients)      

- Pumpkin soup with bread rolls 

Tip: Prepare your meal the night before to avoid the temptation of a meat pie and $1 coffee at the petrol station - that just won’t cut it. Also, dairy and wheat can cause fatigue and bloating in some individuals – know your body and stay clear of these products pre-match if this is you.  

Stomach Growling? Have a Snack 1 - 2 Hours Before Kick-Off

As tempting as it is to reach for a chocolate bar for that final energy hit, don’t fuel your body with high sugar, processed sweets. On the contrary, blood sugar fluctuations can cause you to feel sluggish and low on energy, same with high fat foods - so a burger and fries is off the menu. 

Be wary of overeating pre-match as this will you be put you at risk of stomach upset, and require your body to focus its energy on digestion, rather than powering your muscles. 

Choose easily digestible, high carbohydrate and low fibre snacks.

- Greek yoghurt and fruit

- Fresh tropical fruits such as bananas, pineapples, papaya and mangos

- Tuna sandwich (half should do the trick)

- Bagel or crackers

- Granola bar

Tip: If your stomach feels unsettled before a match and eating solid food is a challenge, opt for liquid carbs such as a fruit smoothie.