Fuel for matches and practice
Food is fuel for the body, and proper nutrition is essential for peak performance both on and off the court. As an integral component of our program, our student-athletes work closely with a registered dietitian to learn how to incorporate healthy eating habits into their daily meals and snacks, as well as how to best meet their individual nutrition needs before, during and after activity.
Check out these tips for some recommendations on fueling appropriately for matches and practice from Kelly Hogan, MS, RD, CDN, registered dietitian and sports nutrition consultant:
Before a Match
Having a pre-match, carbohydrate-rich snack is important to help keep energy levels up as you tick off your sets – use these guidelines to fuel up appropriately depending on how much time you have before your match or practice.
Four hours pre-match: More time for digestion means a combination of carbohydrates and protein work best for a more sustainable, long-lasting energy source. Try:
- 1 cup cereal with skim milk and ½ banana
- Bagel with 1-2 tbsp. peanut butter
- Energy bar (such as Clif Z-Bar, Lara Bar) and 1-2 cups sports drink
- Morning oat bowl (Click here for the recipe)
- 2 scrambled eggs on 2 slices whole wheat toast
- 1 cup Greek yogurt with 1/3 cup granola and 1 cup sliced fruit
- 2-3 slices roasted turkey breast on whole wheat bread with leafy green lettuce and tomato
One hour pre-match: Because of limited digestion time, avoid high fat, high protein, larger meals and focus on simple, carbohydrate-rich snacks in order to have a readily available energy source and avoid stomach troubles during play. Try:
- 1 whole banana
- English muffin with 1 tbsp. jam
- 2-3 dried dates or apricots
- 1 packet instant, plain oatmeal made with water
- 1 cup dry cereal (such as Kashi Heart to Heart, Barbara's Puffins, Cheerios)
- ½ plain bagel with 1 tbsp. jam or ½ tbsp. nut butter
Fluids: Make sure to stay properly hydrated throughout the day.
After a Match
How quickly you refuel can play a big role in muscle recovery and soreness both immediately and over the next few days, and can help prepare your body for the next match or practice. Bounce back in no time with these tips:
Within 30 minutes of finishing a long match or practice: your muscles need immediate nutrition in order to aid recovery – taking in carbohydrates and protein in a 4:1 ratio can replete glycogen stores and help rebuild broken down muscle fibers. You may not be up to eating a full meal, and that's ok. Try easily digestible foods until hunger kicks in:
- 1 cup chocolate milk
- 1 slice whole wheat toast with 1 tbsp. peanut butter
- 1 container fruited Greek yogurt
- Energy bar (such as Clif Z-Bar, Lara Bar)
- Fruit smoothie (Click here for recipes)
Within two hours of your match or practice: settle down for a full meal – it's important to continue refueling the body with carbohydrates and protein not only for recovery, but to prepare it for the next practice, match or long night of homework. Try these nutrient-packed combinations:
- 2-3 slices roasted turkey or chicken breast on whole wheat bread with leafy green lettuce, tomato, cucumber and avocado
- 4 ounces roasted salmon with 1 baked sweet potato and 1 cup steamed broccoli
- Hamburger with 3-4 ounces lean beef (>90%) on whole wheat bun with leafy greens, tomato and baked sweet potato fries
- Slice of pizza with whole wheat crust topped with mozzarella, veggies and a few slices of pepperoni
- Classic meatballs and tomato sauce with ½ cup whole wheat pasta (Click here for recipes)
- Burrito on whole wheat tortilla with black beans, fajita veggies, salsa and guacamole
- Turkey sweet potato stew (Click here for recipes)
Fluids: It's important to replenish fluids lost in sweat, so keep on sipping water throughout the day.
Vegetables and fruits are high in antioxidants, which help rid your muscles of free radicals naturally produced during workouts and aid in recovery. Shoot for at least five servings daily – a good goal is to have two servings at each meal
Instilling a strong nutritional knowledge base is essential to help our student-athletes feel strong and perform at their best – both on and off the court. Below is the nutritional "cheat sheet" that serves as a guide through the basics:
A complete diet consists of three main "macronutrients" – carbohydrates, proteins and fats – that help young bodies develop, grow and utilize available sources of energy and nutrients. A daily combination of carbohydrates, proteins and fats are necessary to help our student-athletes feel and perform at their best. We share the simple guide below to help each of our student groups learn the important basics.
Healthy carbohydrate choices like whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat breads, pasta, corn, farro, oats, bran flakes), and fruits and vegetables are the most important source of energy for the body (including the brain!)
- At least 5-8 servings whole grains
- At least 2 cups fruit
- At least 2-3 cups vegetables
- Limit refined grains (white rice, white bread, pretzels, crackers), and baked goods (cookies, cakes, pastries, donuts), to 1-2 times per week
Essential to build and repair tissues and make chemicals throughout the body.
Poultry – chicken, turkey
Fish and shellfish – salmon, tuna, shrimp, mussels, clams, white fish, scallops
Meats – Beef, pork, lamb, goat
Beans – kidney, pinto, black, garbanzo, navy
Nuts and seeds – walnuts, almonds, peanuts, cashews, pecans, sunflower and pumpkin seeds
Low-fat dairy – milk, yogurt, cheese
- At least 5-7 ounces total protein
- 3 ounces of lean protein = the size of your iPhone!
- 1 ounce = 1 tbsp nut butter, 1 egg, ¼ cup beans, ¼ cup tofu, 12 almonds
- At least 3 cups of low-fat dairy
- Limit meats that are less than 90% lean and processed meats like sausage, bacon and cold cuts
Important for cell growth, organ protection, hormone production and nutrient absorption.
Healthy fats (mostly "unsaturated") – olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, nuts and nut butters, seeds, fish
Less healthy fats (mostly "saturated") – butter, full fat dairy, certain cuts of beef and pork, fried foods, baked goods
- At least 1-2 healthy fat sources
- Limit unhealthy fats (e.g., fried foods) to 1-2 times per week or less