Tournament Nutrition

 How to eat in-between games to maximize your energy and recovery. 

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When playing a demanding sport a common task will arise where decisions must be made–this of course, is what to eat in-between games. We’ve spoken about pregame nutrition in a past article and how important it is to follow our guidelines for maximal energy. But, what about nutrition for tournaments or those weekends when multiple games are played in one day?

 This article will provide you with tips to help make better meal choices. It’s a no brainer that poor nutrition in-between games can lead to decreased performance. 

1. Avoidjunk food. Examples include: sports drinks, sodas, fast food, candy, cookies, cakes, donuts, chips, artificial ingredients and flavor enhancement, refined grains (cereals, breads, pastas), imitation foods (soy milk, margerine) corn syrup. 

 These foods will spike insulin very high, which will result in an equal crash. With a food high in sugar you'll feel a rush of energy for a shorter amount of time and crash feeling worse than before eating. While some insulin spike is good for glycogen (energy stores) replenishment, we want to the spike to be lower and over a prolonged amount of time. 

The I3E fix–shoot for a meal that contains lower amounts of sugar. The goal is to provide yourself with recovery and sustained energy, not quick bursts. A balanced meal with lean meat, vegetables, fruits and some complex carbs (potatoes, oatmeal, etc) trumps sugar loaded/processed foods. This meal offers a lower insulin spike and will provide energy released over time–key for hours of gameplay. 

2. Avoid hydrating with sports drinks and sodas. Sports drinks aren’t cracked up to what they’re supposed to be. Those drinks are loaded with sugar and artificial flavors/colors, which like mentioned above can increase chances of crashing. 

The I3E fix–water. Dehydration is one of the main causes for fatigue and feeling sluggish, the best way to hydrate is with H2O. Make sure to drink ample amounts of water post-game and then a little more before the next game. 

3. Learn to eat for your specific body composition. Your body fat will heavily influence what food choices you should make in-between games. Someone who is lean will have a different method for recovery, as opposed to someone  who is heavier. It’s essential for an athlete to understand this concept for proper replenishment of their energy stores and optimal gameplay. 

The I3E fix–know your body fat and how you respond to foods. An easy way for an athlete to assess their body fat is to look at themselves, if you can see veins throughout your body and muscles in your stomach, more than likely you’re under 10% body fat. If you can not, then chances are you rank higher on the body fat scale. 

An athlete under 10% needs to rely on consuming a little more carbs in-between games–they’re going to have more of a demand to refuel their glycogen stores. It’s important to consume a meal a little more carb dominate–with a majority of them being complex.

Immediately post game: A banana, grapes, fruit juice, whey protein shake.

In-between game meal: Chicken breast (lean meat), white rice, green vegetables. 

Before the game: Apple, berries, pear, oranges (low sugar fruit). 

An athlete over 10% should have a meal more concerned with the protein aspect. Their insulin responses won’t respond in the same way to a carb dominate meal, their insulin is already on a roller coaster. The protein intake will help provide the sustained energy needed. 

Immediately post game: Whey protein shake + glutamine. 

In-between game meal: Chicken breast (lean meat), brown rice, green vegetables. 

Before the game: Apple, berries, pear, oranges (low sugar fruit). 

4. Avoid eating a large meal. Even though you may be starving, avoid eating too big of a meal in-between games. This not only will make you feel sluggish, but will take your body’s energy away from the task at hand–playing. Your body works in a way where it sends energy and blood to places where it’s needed most, the digestive system shouldn’t be competing with your muscles, nervous and cardiovascular system. 

The I3E fix–eat slow and consume smaller meals. This will allow you to actually feel full and gauge how much you should eat. A smaller plate of food will help when your eyes are bigger than your stomach. 

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 If you still have questions about in-between game nutrition don’t hesitate to ask or seek out advice!