Game Day Nutrition
Marissa Ringblom | NCCPT Personal Trainer | Former Collegiate Athlete & Coach
Professional and elite collegiate athletes spend hours training on the field, court, track, in the pool, and in the weight room and that is a huge part of their success. However, there are so many other factors that affect performance including sleep, nutrition, hydration, mindset, personal life, coaching, and scouting reports. Jay Wright, head coach of the Villanova men’s basketball team, has been in the news and media a lot after winning the national championship on April 2nd. The Wildcats’ star guard, Jalen Brunson, won the AP men’s college player of the year, the Naismith, and almost every other basketball honor this year. When Coach Wright was asked what sets Jalen apart from other athletes, he responded with all of the things that Jalen does off of the court to make sure he is prepared for a game like “being well-rested, staying hydrated, eating healthy, and getting his schoolwork done.” Jalen is consistent day in and day out and it helped take him to the next level.
Most youth sports teams and high school teams do not have the luxury of having a full-time athletic trainer, a strength and conditioning coach, and a sports nutritionist like the Villanova men’s basketball team. Parents and coaches have to lead by example and educate young athletes about the importance of properly fueling their bodies to perform at a high level. Parents need to take it one step further to ensure success and provide healthy options that athletes can grab out of the refrigerator and pantry. Here are some nutrition suggestions for before, during, and after a game or training session.
Three to four hours before the game or intense training session, athletes need a meal or a large snack that includes carbohydrates and protein. Don’t forget to start hydrating with water!
· Turkey wrap with veggies, Greek or low-fat yogurt, and some fruit
· Protein shake/smoothie made with whey protein or Greek yogurt, powdered peanut butter, almond milk or low-fat milk, and some greens (kale or spinach)
· Rice Cake with peanut butter, vegetables and pretzels with hummus
· Salad with veggies and grilled chicken or shrimp
· From the frozen section: Birdseye Protein Blends, Birdseye Superfood Blends, Birdseye Vegetable Pasta (5 minutes in the microwave and they are ready to go)
Half an hour to an hour before a game or training session athletes need a mini balanced snack and water.
· An apple and peanut butter
· Grapes and sunflower seeds
· Strawberries and almonds
· Veggies and Hummus
· Pretzels and Hummus
During a game or intense training session, athletes need fluids to stay hydrated and replenish electrolytes like sodium and potassium. Athletes may also need some carbohydrates if the length of the competition or session is longer than 90 minutes. Several of the most popular sports drinks are filled with artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners and tons of sugar. Please see below for some healthier options that include natural ingredients for replenishment.
· WATER every 10-15 minutes
· Bai Antioxidant Infusions
· Zico Coconut Water
· Propel Water
· Clif Bars
After a game or training session, preferably within a half an hour to an hour, athletes need to eat a balanced meal that includes a lean protein (fish, chicken, turkey, eggs, etc.), healthy carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc.), and healthy fats. Cooking with olive oil, coconut oil, or avocado oil is a great way to add healthy fat to meals. Hydration after intense exercise is also critical. Water makes up 75% of muscle tissue and close to 50% of fat cell mass so it is very important to rehydrate after playing or training.
Chicken and vegetable stir fry and brown rice
· Salmon, Quinoa, and a green vegetable (asparagus, broccoli, zucchini, Brussels sprouts, etc.)
· Zoodles (zucchini noodles) with shrimp or chicken with a sweet potato on the side
· Rice Bowl with peppers, lean protein (chicken, ground turkey, lean ground beef, beans), salsa
· Whole grain avocado toast with eggs and some fruit
Proper fuel from nutrition and water provides energy for athletes to perform their very best for an entire game or training session. It starts with parents and coaches educating their athletes about nutrition and setting a positive example. The quality of the fuel that is put into the body determines the quality of the performance that the body can produce. It also helps create healthy lifestyle habits, which can help prevent disease and weight gain later on in life after athletic careers have ended.
Sending lots of love and strength,