Our good friend, Julie Nicoletti, is a registered pharmacist, certified sports nutritionist, and founder of Kinetic Fuel: a company dedicated to educating and counseling athletes on proper nutrition. Today she talks about preparing for longer athletic events or tournaments by packing the proper nutrition needed for performance.
“Hot dogs! Get your hot dogs here,” calls the hawker to a crowd of fans. “Hot dogs, soda, Cracker Jacks!” Good thing those foods are sold to spectators instead of athletes! When it comes to nutrition, there is only one way to guarantee that an athlete will have the fuel and fluids necessary to maximize performance: bring your own. Planning, packing, and bringing a cooler will ensure that an athlete has what they need, when they need it—especially for trips or longer athletic events. So what should an athlete bring to a showcase, meet, tournament, or double header? Here are 3 easy tips to make sure you’re getting the nutrition you need to perform your best during long events.
1. HYDRATE BEFORE AND DURING
Let’s start with hydration. Although hydrating should begin long before you prepare to compete, bring plenty of water for during your sport, especially for those played in the heat, humidity, and sunshine. An athlete can drink up to 2 cups of water, up to 15 minutes before the beginning of an event. In addition to water, bring a sports drink like Gatorade. In most cases, the 12-oz size is enough to replenish electrolytes and give a boost of energy from carbohydrates.
2. EAT REAL FOOD AT THE RIGHT TIMES
When it comes to food as fuel, nutrient timing plays a key role. WHEN an athlete eats is just as important as WHAT they eat. Certain foods, like peanut or almond butter, are best eaten at least 1.5 to 2 hours before playing, whereas fruit like watermelon, grapes, pineapple or banana may be eaten much closer to game time. This is because nut butters are healthy fats and are more slowly digested, whereas fruit is a carbohydrate and can be used as a quicker source of energy. The key is to fuel your body with fresh, real foods that you can still recognize.
3. PLAN AHEAD
Think the day all the way through before you leave home with your cooler. Will you be playing through a meal? If so, pack it and bring it with you rather than relying on concession stands, fast food or take-out. If you’ll only have time for a snack in between games, but need something a bit more substantial than fruit alone, consider a Greek yogurt or yogurt parfait, protein pancakes, carrots and hummus or a breakfast wrap for any time of day. There is no excuse for being unprepared—just think ahead!
EAT TO COMPETE
Very recently I was reviewing an athlete’s food log. As I scrolled from meal to meal, day to day, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday I was impressed with the “clean” choices and discipline. But the food choices at the end of the week looked as though they belonged to someone else entirely. When I asked the athlete, he looked at the dates and said, “Oh, yeah, that was when we went away for a tournament.” Ironically, the time he needed to fuel his body for maximum performance was the same time he found himself without access to the best choices.
When playing in double headers, showcases, and tournaments, remember to bring as much food as you’ll need with you. Eat well. Play like a champion.
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