Nutrition Tips From an Expert
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 is tasked with developing a top performance nutrition program to serve the more than 600 student-athletes that compete for the State University of New Jersey. Kreimeier’s responsibilities include individual nutrition counseling, team and staff education, menu development, coordinating travel nutrition, overseeing training tables and fueling stations, and developing nutrition and hydration strategies. She shares the four keys to fueling on game day.
1. Fuel early. Youth soccer players often skip breakfast. Eating breakfast has shown positive effects on the body for those of all ages. If a young player skips out on breakfast, he or she is skipping out on essential nutrients and calories to reach the daily energy needs to perform at the highest level and manage weight.
2. 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!
3. 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.
4. 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!
Tips for Hydration
Proper hydration requires a full-day commitment. An athlete cannot expect to perform at his or her highest level if he or she has not properly hydrated.
Boys ages 14 to 18 should be drinking 11 cups of water a day. Girls in the same age group should drink at least eight. A soccer player should drink eight to 16 fluid ounces of water two hours before practice and another eight ounces 15 to 30 minutes before the training session.
During practice, a player should drink four to eight ounces every 15 to 20 minutes. After practice, he or she should replenish with 24 fluid ounces for every pound lost.
An easy way to monitor hydration status is by assessing urine color. The goal for athletes should be to have pale, lemonade-color urine. If the urine is darker, that is an indication of under-hydration and should signal the athlete to drink more fluids.
Symptoms of dehydration include noticeable thirst, irritability, fatigue, weakness, nausea, headache, cramping, dizziness, lightheadedness, difficulty paying attention and decreased performance.