Richard Stockton College Athletic Training

Sports Nutrition Newsletter
A periodic Newsletter that addresses the Nutritional aspects
of athletic competition.

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Nancy Brinch, MS, RD, LSW, is Richard Stockton College's campus nutritionist. She obtained her BS in Food and Nutriton from the Univ. of Delaware and her Master's in Nutrition from Penn State Univ.

She provides individual, confidential nutritional counseling to students. Her service is free for RSC students. For appointments call extension 5740. Nancy Brinch can be contacted at
What to Eat Before an Athletic Event

By Nancy Brinch, MS, RD, LSW

Knowing what to eat before exercise, especially before competition, can be tricky. On the one hand, the athlete needs adequate fuel available during competition for peak performance. On the other hand, eating the wrong foods prior to exercise can result in bloating, nausea, and a sluggish feeling.

An athlete needs to eat to avoid hunger and low blood sugar during exercise. The muscles and the brain need a constant supply of glucose to function. If the blood sugar falls too low fatigue, light-headedness, and poor mental functioning will result. Eating sufficient carbohydrate a day or more before competition will increase the body's supply of glycogen, the storage form of carbohydrate. This will provide a continual supply of glucose during exercise. Food eaten within an hour of competition also provides glucose to exercising muscles, the brain and nervous system. Selecting the best foods to meet the body's need for energy is crucial.

There is no magical meal that will work for all athletes. Every athlete has individual food preferences and tolerances. The type of exercise, level of intensity and time of day all influence optimal food selection. The following guidelines will help an athlete make the best food choices:

•Eat adequate carbohydrate in the days leading up to competition. This keeps the muscles fueled with glycogen stores. Glycogen breaks down to glucose when the blood level of glucose drops. By eating good sources of carbohydrate like bread, bagels, fruit, juices, skim or 1 % milk, low-fat yogurt, pasta, potatoes, rice, cereal, crackers, Graham crackers and fig Newtons throughout the day the muscles will store glycogen.

•Eat a pre-exercise meal. This won't increase glycogen stores, but it will increase the blood glucose level to supply exercising muscles with fuel. A good meal is high in carbohydrate, moderate in protein and low in fat. Carbohydrates are digested quickly. Fat takes longer to digest. Therefore the pre-exercise meal should be low in fat. High-fat meals before an event can cause bloating and indigestion. Timing is important when choosing what to eat.

4 hours or more before an event: The night before an event eat a high-carbohydrate meal and drink lots of water. Four hours or more before the event try these suggestions. Four hours leaves enough time for the food to be digested and leave the stomach.

1. turkey sandwich and fruit
2. grilled chicken, potato and vegetable
3. scrambled eggs, toast, and juice
4. spaghetti and meat sauce

2 hours before an event: A light (200- 400 calories) carbohydrate meal is easily digested and provides glucose for exercising muscles. Drink plenty of water. Why should you not eat a high-protein meal? Protein does not provide quick energy. Excess protein increases water loss from the body and can increase the risk of dehydration. Also, many high-protein foods are also high in fat.

1. Cereal and skim or 1% milk
2. Bagel
3. Energy bar
4. Large banana and yogurt

1 hour or less before an event: Be careful with eating sugary foods before an event. While most athletes perform well or even improve their performance when they eat pre-exercise sweets, some athletes experience a drop in blood sugar when they eat sweets 15 minutes to 2 hours before exercise. Eating sweets 5 to 10 minutes prior to exercise is your best bet because the body will not have enough time to produce excess insulin, the hormone that causes the blood sugar to drop. Once you start exercising the body stops secreting insulin.

1. Sports drink
2. Pretzels
3. Raisins
4. Yogurt

If your stomach becomes nervous before an event, a liquid meal might be better tolerated. Liquid meals leave the stomach faster than solid meals. Make a yogurt smoothie by blending:

1 cup vanilla yogurt
1 small banana
cup frozen berries

Some athletes find too much liquid in the stomach causes discomfort that can cause nausea. It's always best to experiment with new foods ahead of time to see how your body responds to them during exercise. Stick with familiar foods before an event.

Always drink lots of fluids.
The day before an event drink an extra 4 to 8 glasses of fluid. You should have to urinate frequently, and your urine should be a clear lemonade color.

Up to 2 hours before an event drink 2 to 3 glasses of water. This will give you adequate time to empty your bladder before the event.

5 - 10 minutes before the event drink another 1 -2 glasses of water.

Remember - hunger hurts your performance. What you eat as well as when you eat can help you optimize your performance.

Questions or comments regarding the Athletic Training Pages should be directed to 
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