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Pre-Event Meals: How to Eat Right Before Competing

Author: Rosemary Buckle, M.D.

In some circles, the “pre-event meal” is almost sacred. It’s ritualistic, worked up in the athlete’s head as something that must be done a very specific way in order for maximum performance. Ask any serious athlete what they eat before running a marathon… stepping out under the Friday night lights… or attempting to set a new personal record in the swimming pool… and you’ll probably get a very specific answer.

Have you ever stopped to wonder if your pre-event meal is the right meal for the upcoming activity? Here are some guidelines to consider when determining what your pre-event meal should be. (Please note: eating a consistently healthy diet throughout training will do you more good than eating the “perfect” meal immediately before competing. Focus on long-term nutrition habits first.)

Basic Guidelines to the Pre-Event Meal

  • Does it have enough calories to cover your anticipated energy expenditure?
  • Does it include all the major food groups, ensuring that you get a wide range of vitamins and minerals?
  • Is the meal high in carbohydrates?

These are the three most important questions to ask yourself in preparing a pre-event meal.

When To Eat Before An Event

Small meals (400-500 calories) can be consumed just two to three hours before activity, sufficiently allowing for digestion and absorption. Larger meals, especially those that are higher in protein, should be consumed earlier–more like five to six hours before activity.

In the case of early morning events, eat a carb-heavy dinner the night before the event. Also, be sure to focus on hydration; this is especially important after several hours of sleep, during which you are not drinking water.

If you absolutely have to eat less than one hour before the event, keep with low-fat/high-carb foods that you know. If you are nervous and/or your stomach is prone to become upset, consider liquid meals that are rich in carbohydrates.

Get In Shape With a Houston Sports Doctor

Learn more about pre-event meals and training habits when you schedule your appointment with a Houston sports physician. Call Houston Institute for Sports Medicine and Orthopedics at (713) 756-5546 to schedule your appointment. You can also schedule your appointment online.

Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.