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Nutrition for Peak Athletic Performance

Food is fuel to the body and plays an important role in preparing for participation in athletic events. Here are some nutrition tips to achieve peak performance whatever your sport.

Do I really need to eat breakfast?
Yes. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and helps to increase metabolism and improves concentration, blood sugar control and reduces irritability. If you are not a breakfast eater, make a commitment to eat breakfast for two weeks. If you are starving by 10 a.m., eat a larger breakfast. Aim for 400-500 calories to sustain you until lunchtime.

Can I just eat a sports bar for lunch?

No. Sports bars are not adequate for a lunch meal which should include at least three to four food groups, preferably consisting of protein, fruit/vegetable, dairy and grains. Sports bars do not contain phytochemicals which are powerhouse nutrients found in fruit and vegetables. They also don’t provide enough calories to sustain the body until the next meal. If you enjoy an occasional sports bar, do so as a convenient snack for quick carbohydrates to enhance a mid-afternoon practice.

What should I eat before a tournament?

Experiment to see what foods work best for you. A consistent carbohydrate diet is important to fuel and refuel muscles to perform your best. Limit high fat proteins as fat delays gastric emptying. Limit high sugar foods such as pop and juice as they can cause blood glucose levels to drop later causing you to be tired or light-headed.

What is the best time to eat a meal before an event?

For an event with a morning start, eat a high carbohydrate meal the night before and about 1.5-3 hours before the event, eat a 200-400 calorie breakfast such as yogurt and a banana or a bowl of oatmeal with a banana or a sports bar. Eat foods that you are familiar with to avoid stomach upset.

For an afternoon event eat a larger breakfast and light lunch or a caloric brunch by Noon. If you have a larger meal, allow at least four hours for digestion.

What should I eat to refuel after a game or practice?

Replenish muscle energy stores with high carbohydrate-rich foods within 30 minutes after a practice or game and again within two hours. To stay fueled, choose from the following power packed snacks:

Chocolate milk

Peanut butter and jelly or banana or sliced strawberry sandwich on whole grain bread

Trail mix (nuts, dried fruit, cereal)

Cereal or low fat granola with fruit and yogurt

Banana bread with skim or 1% milk

Low fat muffin with 100% juice

Frozen 100% juice bar without added sugars

Fresh or dried fruit

Cheese and/or whole grain crackers

Granola bar

Nuts – almonds or walnuts

Meal-replacement drink that is not loaded with added sugars

Fruit smoothie made with yogurt or 100% juice


If you have any questions or want to know more information please call the Institute for Athletic Medicine (IAM) at 612-672-7100 or visit us online at