Eating a nutritious pre-game meal is crucial if you want to perform at your best, as your body needs fuel for the work you're about to do. Whether you're about to play a game of soccer, basketball, lacrosse or tennis, the guidelines remain the same -- give your body high-quality calories and nutrients and you set yourself up for success.
1. Chicken Pasta
Simple, tasty and cheap, chicken pasta is the ultimate pre-game meal. You need carbs before exercising. Carbs are your body's main source of energy, and foods like pasta are high in carbohydrate. While you should usually opt for whole-grain pasta, white pasta may be a better choice before a game, as the fiber in whole grains can cause bloating and discomfort. Protein from the chicken aids muscle growth and repair; you can also substitute chicken with tuna or a vegetarian protein such as tofu. Add tomato sauce for extra carbs, plus vitamins and minerals.
If you thought bagels were off limits on your healthy diet, you were wrong. They may be high in carbs, but these carbs will give you a huge energy boost. Make a bagel a complete meal by adding some protein and fat. Try different combinations such as lean beef and horseradish, smoked salmon and cream cheese or chicken and pesto.
3. Salmon and Vegetables
A lean protein with vegetables is the perfect way to fuel your upcoming game, according to nutritionist Heidi Skolnik. Accompany your salmon and veggies with hummus and pretzels or a fruit and nut bar with a small serving of yogurt to increase the carb count. A meal like this provides you with 300 to 400 calories, notes Skolnik. The only thing to watch out for is the veggies you choose -- avoid gassy foods like beans and broccoli as these can cause intestinal discomfort.
The timing of your pre-game meal is critical. Too far away from the event and the meal won't sustain you, but too close to game time and you'll feel bloated and sick. Eat your pre-game meal two to four hours before the event, advises Robert E. Keith, professor of nutrition and food science at Auburn University. Between mealtime and game time you can sip on water and sports drinks to keep your energy levels up, but you shouldn't eat any solid food.
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images