Nutrition: The Benefits of Preparing Your Body for Practice

Written by Lydia Nader, Sports Dietitian at IBJI

Is this you? You roll out of bed, throw on your jersey and some shorts and socks. Grab your gear and run out the door to get to practice on time. The grab and go routine is common for many young athletes. You want to sleep in, which is important for your performance as well. But did you know you are missing something on your way out the door?

When we exercise or have a match, we need energy to perform. Whether practice is in the morning or the afternoon, or evening, your body needs its fuel. We call this your pre-fuel. When we refer to pre-fuel, we mean the food or drink you fuel up with before exercise. This last bit of energy helps you have sustained energy until the end of the match, speeds up your recovery afterwards and even helps avoid nausea, vomiting and dizziness during a match or practice. No one wants to be kept down by nausea or extra sore after a practice.

“But I get nausea even when I eat before practice, so how will eating beforehand prevent it?” Well, this is common when you have not trained your stomach for digesting that amount of food. Did you know your stomach is a muscle that can be trained just like any other muscle you use in lacrosse? Well, just like any other muscle, you have to start small with the amount of food and build up strength to be able to digest more food. I always recommend starting with 1/2 a banana, which is easy to digest and light on the stomach for most people. Other options are one protein bite made with oats and nut butter, 1/2 cup of applesauce, or a granola bar. After about two weeks of pre-fueling, you can gradually start to increase the amount of food you each before practice, which better prepares you for the match.

Time is also a factor in digestion and using energy from food, so do not feel that you need to eat these foods 15 minutes before a workout. If you can, try to start with 1 to 2 hours before practice or a match (I recommend trying all of these in practice BEFORE a match), which allows more time for digestion. If you go this route, you can even add a little protein, such as nut butter or cheese or yogurt, to help begin the process of building and repairing the muscles you use in practice. So think, 1-4 hours before a practice means a small meal, whereas 30 minutes to an hour beforehand means a simple snack.

Here are your key takeaways:

-Practicing or competing on an empty stomach hurts your performance rather than helps you.

-Pre-fuel should be carbohydrate-rich, which means low in fiber and low in fat. Things like fruit, dairy, bread, potatoes, and oats and other grains.

-Timing of pre-fuel is important. Give your body time to digest your food so you can use the energy in that practice or match. Also, you do not want it sitting in your stomach during practice.

The perfect formula for pre-fuel = simple carbohydrates + a small amount of protein.

Do not lose out on chances to improve your performance today! Try these pre-fueling tips and let Dietitian Lydia know what you think about fueling for your performance.