It’s 3 o’clock in the afternoon. You’ve just finished a long day of school and you now have a game. It starts in 30 minutes but you haven’t had your pre-game meal yet. You sit down and dig in to a bowl of brown rice, and suddenly, you feel even more ready to play. This is a routine that is replicated by many athletes on a regular basis and, strangely, it can have a huge impact on how they perform.
Diet is only now coming into its own with advancements in sports science but its effect on athletes (young and old) can not be overlooked. Only recently was it discovered that, before a high stress sporting event, complex carbohydrates were an integral part of the pregame ritual as they release “fast energy” because they burn faster than proteins and fats.
This would mean that rice and pasta are more effective for athletes that the prototypical pre game meals such as burgers or steak. The reason for this is because it takes longer for our bodies to digest “thicker” food products as they block the blood flow while carbs do the opposite (open it up).
An example of this was when Arsene Wenger (former manager for Arsenal F.C,) joined the club in 1996 and immediately introduced a completely new diet based around light vegetables and rice.
This was a curveball for English football in general as, before that, players would routinely eat red meat and eggs before games. He completely cut this out and he won the title almost immediately, which many put down to the change of diet.
So, what is a good diet for an athlete? While this varies from person to person, there is a general consensus on what is right to eat. First off, it is important to include fruits, most specifically bananas in any diet. They are packed full with carbohydrates and also contain vitamin B, a crucial component that transforms the carbohydrates into a usable energy deposit at a fast rate.
With that said, any source of carbohydrate is good to have before a game. In addition to bananas and carbs, another component of a good athlete’s diet is beans on toast. This is seen as a typical English breakfast meal, but it is actually rich in protein and carbohydrates. Usually, protein is not recommended before a sporting event as it takes longer to digest, but beans on toast is an exception.
This meal contains carbohydrates as well as protein therefore meaning you can have it without the drawbacks that protein usually has on performance while also feeling doubly energized.
It is important to note that protein is amazing for the body while recovering from a game or track meet but can potentially limit performance if eaten beforehand. Milk is also a great post-game recovery beverage as it repairs muscle damage and supports muscle gain as opposed to the exercise drinks that just pump sugar into your system. Pre-game meals are just as important as post game ones and carbohydrates are critical in any diet.
Even if you are rushed for time, eating these foods will help you stay energized on a consistent basis and keep you performing at your best.