Food intake prior to a sporting event needs to be timed to ensure that the fuel from this food is available. Therefore enough time has to be allowed for digestion and absorption to occur, which depends on the type and quantity of food consumed. Generally, foods higher in fat, protein and fibre tend to take longer to digest than other foods, as do larger quantities of food.
A general guide is to have a meal about 3-4 hours before exercise, or a lighter snack about 1-2 hours before exercise. As always, there are variations between individuals so it may take some trial and error to tailor the pre-game eating plan to suit individual needs.
Food 3-4 hours prior to exercise should provide carbohydrates, be low in fat and moderate in fibre to make digestion easier and reduce the risk of gastrointestinal discomfort; some fluids for hydration are also essential. Some pre-game meal ideas suitable to eat 3-4 hours before exercise can include:
- Wrap or sandwich with cheese or meat filling + banana
- Crumpets with jam or honey + flavoured milk
- Baked beans on toast
- Muesli cereal with milk
- Fruit salad with fruit-flavoured yoghurt
- Pasta with beef mince in tomato-based sauce
Additional snacks eaten 1-2 hours prior to the game should be light, rich in carbohydrate and low in fat and fibre for easy digestion. Some pre-game snack ideas suitable to eat 1-2 hours before exercise are:
- Milk shake or fruit smoothie
- Toast (white) with vegemite
- Fruit flavoured yoghurt
- Peanut butter on rice cakes
- Banana + handful of almonds
- Breakfast cereal with milk
If there is less than one hour before the game and the athlete feels the need for
fuel the following are suitable:
- Sports drink
- Carbohydrate gel (make sure to trial these prior to this point!)
- Jelly lollies
Remember: Food and fluid consumed throughout the training week and during a sporting event is just as important as the pre-event meal. Many sports players tend to focus only on the pre-event meal.