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What Should Athletes Eat Before a Game?

By Heather Topham Wood

Eating the right foods at the right time before a game can help athletes have enough energy to compete at their best. Eating junk food or skipping a meal can make you feel sluggish or experience uncomfortable side effects like stomach upset. Athletes need more calories than sedentary individuals to counteract their high level of activity.

Time Frame

Your pregame meal should take place about two to four hours before the event. If you don’t have enough time for a full meal before a game, you can have a small snack up to one hour beforehand. If you eat too close to the game, the food is not likely to digest in time and you may experience stomach upset during play.


A pregame meal should be made up of mostly carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are digested quickly and converted to energy. Small amounts of fats and protein are allowed in a pregame meal. Meal options may include a turkey sandwich, low-fiber cereal with low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt with fruit, pasta with tomato sauce, waffles with syrup or a bagel.


The meal you have before a game should be relatively small and less than 1,000 calories. You’ll want to eat only bland foods and avoid any spicy dishes. Avoid meals that contain peppers, onions or chili powder. Never try new foods in the hours leading up to a game. The foods should also be low in fiber since high-fiber vegetables, beans and nuts may cause you to feel the urge to use the bathroom during game play.


You need to drink plenty of fluid before a game as well. According to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, generous amounts of fluid should be consumed the day before a game and 400 to 600 milliliters of fluid should be consumed two hours before the event. Water is typically used for hydration. However, if the game is expected to be longer than one hour or takes place in a hot environment, sports drinks with electrolytes should be consumed.

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