Eating Before Competition

Posted by on November 16, 2018

Complied by Oh Boonruan from Danelle Swearingen

Grains and fruits

The first and most important thing to remember in designing a pre-event meal is to stick with foods that your body is familiar with. The day of the big game is no time to start experimenting with new meals – always try new things during training first!

Some of the most important reasons for eating well before an event are to prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and it’s symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, fatigue, muscle weakness, blurred vision, indecisiveness; to settle the stomach by absorbing gastric juices and preventing the distraction of hunger; to top off your muscle glycogen stores for maximal energy, and to give the peace of mind that comes with knowing your body is well fueled. (Clark, p. 167)

Some guidelines for choosing your pre-event meal are:

  • Eat adequate high carbohydrate meals every day to keep glycogen stores full and make the most of your training sessions.
  • Allow at least 3-4 hours digestion time for a large meal, 2-3 hours for a smaller meal, 1-2 for blended or liquid meals, less than 1 hour for a small snack. If you are participating in very intense exercise, you may want to allow a little extra time.
  • If you eat less than 1 hr before the event, be sure to snack on any “tried and true” low fat, high carbohydrate snack.
  • Go easy on high sugar or high Glycemic index foods to avoid a “sugar crash” that can occur when your blood sugar rapidly rises and then falls again.
  • Drink extra water the day before, have 2-3 glasses before bed and 1-3 glasses 5-10 minutes before the event and remember to re-hydrate after the event! You should replace every pound of weight lost with at least 2 cups of water, or 3 cups if you have another event on the same day. Sports drinks are recommended for events lasting longer than one hour to replenish electrolytes lost through sweating and give your muscles the carbohydrates they need to keep working hard.


Specific suggestions for eating before events from Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook:

  • 8am. event: Eat a high carbohydrate dinner and drink extra water the night before, at 6-6:30am. eat a 200-400 calorie meal (yogurt, banana) and have more water.
  • 10am. event: Eat a high carbohydrate dinner, extra water, have a familiar breakfast by 7am. to prevent fatigue.
  • 2pm. event: Eat a high carbohydrate breakfast and a light lunch or combine them into a big brunch eaten by 10am. Be sure to have a high carbohydrate dinner the night before, drink extra water day before and up to noon on the event day.
  • 8pm. event Eat a big high carbohydrate breakfast and lunch, have dinner by 5pm. or a lighter meal by 6-7pm., drink extra fluids all day.
  • All day event: Two days before the event, cut back exercise to rest the body, rest completely the day before, eat a high carbohydrate breakfast, lunch, and dinner the day before and drink extra fluids, eat a breakfast you can tolerate on the day of the event, snack every 1.5 to 2 hours on carbohydrates during the day if possible, eat lunch if you can, drink fluids before you feel thirsty.


  • Clark, N. (1997). Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook(2nd edition). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics (editor and publisher).
  • Duyff, R.L. (1998). The American Dietetic Association’s Complete Food & Nutrition Guide. Minneapolis, MN: Chronimed Publishing.
  • Williams, M.H. (1999). Nutrition for Health, Fitness, & Sport(5th edition). USA: McGraw – Hill.

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