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Team Conditioning Systems:
You Are What You Eat

Monday, September 8, 2003

By Gregory "Graig" White
Team Conditioning Systems Correspondent

You are what you eat is an expression that we work to get our athletes to live by. Athletes who are properly fueled can compete at levels that far surpass athletes who aren’t. The pre-game meal is a very important component of an athlete’s preparation, to be honest, the pre-game meal is just too important to the success of any athlete so it must be chosen with great care.

There are fewer things more annoying than having an athlete show up for a game with a bag from the local fast food establishment before a game. All of the preparation that took place up until that point is jeopardized only because the fuel the athlete is using may not be adequate to help them get the job done. The purpose of this meal is to make sure that the athlete has adequate fluids for the duration of the game, to provide adequate calories to meet developmental needs and to instill sound nutritional principles and practices that will last long after their playing careers are over.

When planning the pre-game meal there are a few things that you as an athlete should keep in mind, first and foremost NEVER SKIP A MEAL! The body thrives on consistency and by keeping food in the body the metabolism will function properly and you will have taken the first step in enhancing your athletic performance. You also want to choose foods that aren’t greasy and are easy to digest. Foods that have a low glycemic index such as fruits and vegetables whole grains things like pancakes and waffles just go easy on the syrup.

What foods to eat is a question that is asked a lot by athletes as a rule of thumb eat foods that you are familiar with, foods that are easily digested and enjoyable foods that are carbohydrate enriched are probably best, they are the quickest and most efficient energy source and easily digested. Another rule that is used is that the meal should be eaten 1 to 4 hours before the game this allows the stomach to be empty so the chance of any stomach problems will be lessened.

Avoiding the traps of game day eating are not as hard as you would have been led to believe, it’s about making a commitment to your body, you want to avoid eating heavy foods, some meats, gravies, sauces, and cheese. Stay away from carbonated soft drinks drinks, they can cause stomach distress, and the caffeine can act as a diuretic and can cause dehydration.

With all of this said, you may still find athletes who will say that they are just too nervous to eat or some variation of this theme, for them I say Meal replacement. No I’m not talking about protein shakes I’m talking about products that are meals in a pouch just add skim milk and watch them work. These products contain the nutrients athletes may not get because they are not eating. There are a couple of good products on the market, so finding one will not be difficult at all.

There are many components that go into creating a winning program, and sometimes one aspect is given more priority over others, the pre-game meal is a part of the equation that is sometimes lost, coaches feel that it is the responsibility of the athlete to make sure that they eat right, and with that I agree partly, once you show your players that you consider eating right something that is very important they too will find it important and do the right thing and eat to compete.

Do you have a fitness or conditioning question for Graig? Send it to If your question is used in an article, you will receive a free Team Conditioning Systems t-shirt.
For previous Winning Ways, visit Graig's Archives

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