Training-Day Nutrition vs. Game-Day Nutrition

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The foods you eat (and when you eat them) impact your performance. Be at your best by following these recommendations for training days and game days.

Food is fuel. And depending on the choices you make, that fuel can help you run farther, lift more and perform better. For most active people, small dietary shifts won’t make a huge difference in their workouts, but for those who want every edge, consider how you’re treating your body on training days versus game days.

Training-Day Nutrition

For training and rest days, keep your diet simple and healthy with lots of lean meats, plenty of vegetables, some fruit, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

There are a few key foods you’ll want to make sure are part of your training-day meals:

  • Cruciferous Veggies. Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and kale are nutrient-rich vegetables that give you plenty of fiber, antioxidants and lots of vitamins and minerals — all great things for athletic performance.
  • Quinoa. A celebrated superfood, quinoa is a great source of fiber and protein (unlike many other grains). Plus, it offers all nine essential amino acids — great for building muscle and recovering from exercise.
  • Cherries. These tart fruits are rich in antioxidants. Many athletes appreciate their inflammation-reducing properties and their ability to limit soreness while training.
  • Water. Don’t forget to stay hydrated — be sure to stick with water rather than sugary sports drinks. (Save those for game day if you must have them.)

Game-Day Nutrition

What should you eat on race or game day to improve your performance? First, remember that if you haven’t been eating well up to this point, you’re not going to be able to make up for it with one day of healthy food choices.

That said, there are some important considerations for competition days when every second and every inch matters.

  • Be wary of lots of fat or fiber. For some people, fat and fiber can cause gastrointestinal issues — something you don’t want to be dealing with out on the field. Be mindful of your food choices leading up to go-time.
  • Stick to what you know works. Don’t try any new food or supplements on game day — you don’t know how your body will react.
  • Go bananas. Bananas are a healthy, easy-to-digest sugar. If you’re wary of bars or gels, throw a banana in your bag for a natural source of sugar and electrolytes. Plus, the potassium helps prevent muscle cramps, making bananas a good choice for both before and after the game.
  • Explore other fast-acting fuels. Much like bananas, foods like dates and figs offer athletes the quick energy they need right away to perform. Try adding them into your diet on training days to see how your body responds.

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