How To Eat Before You Compete

Timing, size and nutrient combination of a meal or snack go hand in hand.  Whether eating at home or on the go, the pre-event meal should be high in carbohydrate, moderate in protein and lower in fat.  This power-fuel combination is easy to digest and gives the athlete the confidence needed to fulfil their call of duty!

Whether eating at home or on-the-go, the goal is to ensure that food and fluid do not hinder but rather enhance exercise performance.

Pre-Performance Sport Nutrition Planning

Timing Pre-Event Guidelines Meal/Snack Ideas
3 – 4 hours  FULL MEAL:High carbohydrate Moderate protein Decreased fat, avoid fried foods Fluid – Pasta with tomato based meat sauce, dinner roll, fruit salad with low fat yogurt and water/low fat  milk/fruit juice- Grilled chicken sandwich (mayo on the side), low fat muffin, and low fat milk/juice – Lean meat wrap/sub with veggies and low fat dressing or cheese.  Apple slices and Milk.
2 – 3 hours SMALLER MEAL:High carbohydrate Lower-Moderate Protein Low fat Fluid – Turkey sandwich with mustard, hold the mayo.  Banana. Milk- Oatmeal cooked in milk topped with yogurt and fruit. Water – Large fruit smoothie made with milk & low fat muffin
1 – 2 hours SNACK:High carbohydrate Lower protein Low fat Fluid – Low fat cottage cheese, apple, crackers and juice- Low fibre breakfast cereal, sliced banana with low fat milk – Liquid meal (nervous stomach)
< 1 hour SMALL SNACK:High carbohydrate Low to no protein Low to no fat Fluid – Cereal based trail mix and water/juice- Jam/honey sandwich and water – Piece of fruit
< 30 minutes MINI SNACK:High Carbohydrate No protein No fat Fluid – Sport drink (can be home made…1/2 fruit juice, ½ water, pinch of salt)- Fruit/vegetable juice – Pretzels and apple sauce (or other pureed fruit)

Plan ahead and be prepared!  Remember, the purpose of the pre-event meal or snack is to top up energy stores and hydrate so the athlete can perform their personal best.


  1. Plan and prepare meals and snacks in advance so that nutrition is not left to chance.
  2. Choose high carbohydrate, low fat foods that are familiar and well tolerated.
  3. Stay hydrated throughout the day up until your event.
  4. Experiment and practice with type and timing of meals and snacks in training.
  5. Try liquid or low fibre meals if pre-event nerves or other gastrointestinal upset arise.
  6. Keep track by monitoring what works so you have a solid eating plan the day of competition.
  7. Work with a dietitian who has experience working with athletes.

Meals  & Snack at Home or On-the-Go

At Home

At the Deli/Gas Station

Fast Food/Canteen

MEALS:Pasta with low-fat tomato sauce, Dinner roll, Orange, Low-fat yogurt, Water/low fat milk/juice Pancakes with yogurt & berries, ham, and juice Lean meat sandwich, veggies, low fat dressing/cheese, Apple slices, Milk /juice/waterMinestrone soup, crackers, yogurt with fruit salad, and juice Grilled chicken sandwich, sauce on the side, Apple slices/yogurt parfait, Milk/juiceBagel with peanut butter and jam, Milk
SNACKS:Nut with cocoa spread and banana wrap, Milk Smoothie with low fat muffin Homemade sports drink (1/2 juice, ½ water, pinch of salt) Raisins & pretzels Sports drink Fruit bars, low fat cereal bars Crackers & cheese strings Oatmeal cookies & low fat milk Trail mix & cereal Milk/Chocolate milk Cereal bars Pretzels (hard) Fruit bar Juice

Food choices will be based on preferences, meal timing and where you will be.  Keeping a backpack with snack options can save an athlete from having to make poor choices before the event.