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The key to pre-game meals is not the meal itself; it’s how you eat throughout the course of the whole day. The most important thing in sustaining energy is balanced nutrition and maintaining blood-glucose levels during the course of the day.
With that in mind, New York Islanders Director of Sports Performance, Sean Donellan, has outlined some simple, but balanced pre-game meals that include good sources of carbohydrates, protein and fats, which should mimic your diet throughout the whole day. Instead of eating a huge carbohydrate meal, cut back on carbs and replace them with a little protein and fat.
Avoid a massive pasta meal before your game, those pasta parties from high school were just pure carbohydrates. Lower the amount of pasta (carbs) and add some protein (grilled meat or fish), which replaces the calorie count and helps sustain your energy level longer. Add a colorful vegetable, like broccoli or avocado, for the vitamins and nutrients your body needs to function properly and reach its physical peak. Grill your meat to keep down the fat content and keep your time in the kitchen short. This way you can cook the rest of your meal simultaneously and finish fast.
Ideally, your meal should be consumed about three hours before your game.
Choose whole wheat pasta with grilled chicken and broccoli (vitamins, nutrients) and add some marinara sauce for good flavor. The whole wheat pasta provides a good dose of carbs and the high protein, low fat chicken will also give you a charge.
Grilled salmon filet with brown rice and a vegetable of your choice (steamed asparagus, steamed carrots, etc.) The quality of your meal is only as good as the condiments used though, so the brown rice should not be smothered in high-sodium soy sauce and your meats/fish shouldn’t be covered in mayo or fatty dressings.
If you’re going straight to your game from your desk and can’t stop home, pick up a whole wheat wrap at your local deli or market and get it to go with grilled chicken, romaine lettuce or spinach, tomato and a light dressing of balsamic vinaigrette. This is perfect when you’re rushed and can’t prepare the meal yourself. You can even grab this at lunch and refrigerate it for the afternoon.
Sean Donellan, ATC, CSCS, is the Director of Sports Performance for the New York Islanders Hockey Club of the National Hockey League.