The 4 Keys to Fueling on Game Day

By Allison Kreimeier, MS, RD, CSSD

Allison Kreimeier was hired in March of 2016 as the inaugural director of performance nutrition for Rutgers athletics. She shares the four keys to fueling on game day for high school football players.

Fuel early. High school students often skip breakfast. Eating breakfast has shown positive effects on the body for those of all ages. If a young football player skips out on breakfast, he is skipping out on essential nutrients and calories to reach his daily energy needs to perform at their highest level and manage weight.

Eat a pre-game meal. Three to four hours before the game is prime time to fill up the body’s energy tank. This meal should be high in carbohydrates, moderate in protein, and low in fat. Two examples of a great pre-game meal include spaghetti with a marinara ground turkey sauce, a roll, and green beans. Another is an herb-baked chicken breast with rice or baked potato, a roll, and carrots. Consider this breakdown when you’re making a pregame meal: 50 percent carbohydrates, 25 percent vegetables, 25 percent protein. Don’t forget the fluids!

Halftime intake. This is a good time to recharge the body for the second half of the game. Sports drinks offer fluid and carbohydrate replacement as well as electrolytes. Pretzels, bananas, fruit cups, Rice Krispies treats, or granola bars are great choices to provide carbohydrates that quickly digest and are low in fiber and fat to avoid potential gastro-intestinal discomfort.

Don’t ignore the post-game. A post-game meal and/or beverage is often overlooked. At this point, the body is running very low on energy and needs to be refueled for optimal recovery. Try a deli or grilled chicken sandwich, a chicken burrito with rice, beans, and veggies, or even a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with chocolate milk. Replacing fluids is key, too!

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