Pre-Game & Pre-Training Nutrition for Young Athletes

"What do I eat before a game or training?”… one of the most common questions we receive. It’s as if people believe there is some magical formula that's going to magically raise performance. Alas, that magic pill doesn’t exist (except in the form of hard work). And here at The Academy we prefer to use some simple and basic guidelines when it comes to consuming food pre-game rather than giving specific details. It’s kind of like a choose your own adventure 😉

Far too many people over-complicate things when it comes to nutrition. Our intention within this article is to simplify fuelling the body before a game or training. Don’t let the simplicity of our approach take away from the importance of fuelling our bodies before exercise, as it’s this food that gives us the energy to perform at our best for long periods of time. And failing to eat before training is like taking your car for a long drive with the petrol needle almost on empty…


Background Information

Any food that is consumed before exercise is only useful once it has been digested and absorbed - which is why we need to leave time between eating and training. And due to this, smaller meals are preferred over larger meals - especially when it’s consumed closer to performing

The macronutrient(s) in the food also plays a big role, as foods with a higher level of fat/protein/fibre take longer to digest than others. Also, these types of foods may also cause stomach discomfort. So, we tend to choose meals with a higher ratio of carbohydrate due to this, and also the fact that they're the body’s preferred energy source - so they help fill our “fuel tank"

Timing Guidelines

The AIS provide amazing fact sheets on this topic, and they help the elite athlete’s of our time fuel themselves and perform, so we tend to base things with the guidelines they set. As a general guideline, eat a larger, main meal about 3-4 hours beforehand that has a good source of complex carbohydrate, and also a good source of protein

Then, you can consume a lighter snack or liquid drink roughly an hour beforehand 


Don’t get bogged down in the perfect amount or things like that, as everyone is individual and therefore may work best on something different. When looking for examples however, here are a few:

Main meal could be something like the following: 
- A bowl of cereal or oats with eggs
- Two sandwiches with meat and salad filling
- A bowl of pasta and meat sauce   
- A few slices homemade pizza
- English muffins with meat and vegetable toppings 

Snack(s) could include:
- Sports Drink
- Piece of fruit and yoghurt
- Muesli bar + yoghurt
- Milkshake or Fruit Smoothie

Coaches Note: my personal favourite snack before a game/training (and after for that fact) is a tall glass of milk with Milo 😉 

Biggest Takeaways/Key Points:

- Food must be digested and absorbed before training/performing, and therefore should be consumed 3-4 hours prior (if a large meal), and 1-2hrs before for lighter snacks
- Ensure these meals/snacks are high in carbohydrates, contain a small amount of protein to benefit muscle synthesis, and low in fat and fibre (as they slow digestion)
- Everyone is an individual, aim for things you enjoy eating and that make you feel good
- Don’t be scared of sports drinks to sip on before/during games either. A topic we covered extensively HERE

Keep things simple, and use your common sense, there is no need to overcomplicate them. Trust me, you know a lot more than you believe

Eat foods your enjoy and make you feel good/perform well

NutritionNick Maier