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Nutrition in Team Sports

Updated: Dec 11, 2022

Do you play team sports?

Here are some evidence-based nutrition tips to improve your performance, energy, and recovery!

This post will cover nutrition for pregame and post-game, hydration.

I will also share some practical tips and recipe ideas. All of which is based on current sport nutrition research evidence.

Are any of the following challenges for you?

  • Time conflicts

  • Family schedules

  • Nutrition Knowledge

  • Food availability and storage

  • Meal prep and timing

  • Other?

Whether you are an elite athlete or playing shinny hockey with friends, nutrition is essential.

We all face unique challenges, and need personalized ways to overcome them. With the right planning and knowledge – the benefits of evidence based sport nutrition strategies can be felt right away. Let me share a bit about evidence based sports nutrition and then we will dive right right in to the tips!

Evidence-based Sports Nutrition

This post is developed mainly from research-based recommendations from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine (1). These organizations provide guidelines for the appropriate type, amount, and timing of food, fluids, and supplements to promote optimal health and performance in training and competitive sport.

This post will cover some basic tips, but keep in mind nutrition plans are best when personalized to the individual athlete. For tailored sports nutrition plans, it's best to work with a Registered Dietitian with experience in sports nutrition.

But for some quick practical info and strategies - let's get started!

Pregame Nutrition Strategy

Tip 1: Eat a balanced meal with carbs and protein 3 hours before game time.

This will give your body the time it needs to digest and store the energy for game time.

Tip 2: If less than 1-2 hours to game time, eat a smaller meal with simple carbs.

A smaller portion is better if in a time crunch, otherwise you will feel like a brick out there. Choose easily digestible foods, such as simple carbs.

Tip 3: Avoid fatty foods right before a game.

This can slow down digestion and leave you feeling tired. Choose the best option! Even many restaurants and fast food places have healthy, non deep fried options.

Pregame Nutrition - The bottom line

It takes time for the body to digest, absorb, and store the carbs, proteins, fats, and other nutrients we get from food.

Also, some foods take longer to digest than others, such as high fibre and fatty foods.

For example, a larger meal, with fibre-packed whole foods (Ex. vegetables, whole grains, legumes and a lean protein) should be eaten well in advance (3 to 4 hours). Simple carbs (ex. white bread, potatoes, or rice) can be digested quicker, and should be chosen if it's getting close really close to game time.

What to eat 2-4 hours Pregame (ideas)

Short on time?

What to eat 1-2 hours Pregame...

  • Smaller stir-fry (Ex. one cup of white rice or pasta plus protein choice)

  • Peanut butter sandwich on white bread

  • Fruit with some yogurt and cereal

  • Handful of trail mix with a glass of milk

Ok, your pregame is covered, now for the post-game!

Postgame Nutrition Strategy

Tip 1: Eat within the first 30-60 minutes following the game.

Have a balanced, healthy snack or 'mini-meal' prepared in advance that you can keep with you or in the car.

Tip 2: Make the first meal a small one.

A small snack or 'mini-meal' with a simple carb and protein will do the trick. You can prepare a proper meal later when you have the time. In fact, it is better to have two or three snacks / mini meals in the hours following intense exercise, rather than one really large meal.

In high intensity exercise your body has burned a lot of carbs, and your muscles tissue breaks down. These nutrients need to be replaced early.

Postgame nutrition - The bottom line

Postgame nutrition within the first 30-60 minutes is crucial for muscle recovery, curbing your hunger, and in improving energy.

Your muscles experience small micro-tears during exercise (which is normal). Your body is literally starving for the nutrition it needs to recover. Also, waiting too long after the game often leads to overeating and/or making poor food choices.

And how about the next day? We have all been there... Waking up sore is a pain, literally.

Getting that protein and carb right after exercise (and definitely before bed) will help your muscles recover during sleep!

So making that postgame nutrition a priority, and your body will thank you the next day!

Food Examples:

  • Fruit smoothie with added Greek yogurt

  • Fruit and a yogurt

  • Peanut butter sandwich

  • Ham and cheese sandwich

  • Trail mix and a banana

  • Milk with a fruit

  • Boiled egg with crackers

Even just a small snack with protein and carb within the first 60 minutes after a game can give your body the fuel it needs to recover better and faster.


Tip 1: Drink plenty of water the day before and the day of the event.

Keep a water bottle with you, and aim for at least 2-3 litres of water per day. But don't drink too much water right before the game, or you may feel heavy, bloated, or experience cramping.

Tip 2: Come to the game with two water bottles (one water, and one with electrolytes).

You can buy electrolyte supplements (Ex. in gels, or in a powder that you can add to water). You can also dilute a sports drink 50:50 with water. I recommend diluting sports drinks because they (typically) have too much added sugar.

As a bonus - the small amount of carbs from diluted sports drinks or electrolyte supplements can enhance performance by stimulating the brain and central nervous system.

Electrolytes are super important for hydration. Adding an electrolytes supplement, or having a sports drink diluted with water is definitely worth it.

Hydration - The bottom line

Getting enough fluids before, during, and after exercise is important for health and performance. Dehydration can increase the perception of effort and negatively affect your performance.

During high intensity exercise, you lose both water AND electrolytes through sweat. Both need to be replaced or you will feel it in your performance, energy, and recovery.

So you have the knowledge and strategies, what next?

Set one (or two) simple goals

If making a goal for your pregame meal - Do you notice if the timing or food type affects your energy? or performance?

If you want to try having an optimal postgame mini-meal - How do you feel later in the day? or the next morning?

If hydration - Did the timing and amount of water (and/or electrolytes) affect your performance? thirst? energy levels?

Learn More!

Working with a sports dietitian?

Sport dietitians are specialists who use nutrition to help you train, compete, and recover as an athlete. They provide evidence based, non-biased information regarding food and supplementation, helping you make informed choices.

They develop personalized strategies to eat well, taking into account the type of event, performance goals, practical challenges, food preferences, and responses to different strategies.

Have you ever considered working with a sports dietitian?

What challenges (or successes) have you had with nutrition and sports?

If you have questions about nutrition, contact me at or check out my website at

Thanks for reading!


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