Fuel for the Game

AFL football takes a lot out of the body from depleting energy stores to the toll of physical contact.

Most AFL players prepare their body for the game by getting physiotherapy and massage to ease aches and pains but they also need to eat correctly before the game to ensure they have sufficient energy to get through a full game of AFL.

Pre-game fuel

Pre-game food and fluid intake are the final stages of recovery from a week of hard training to ensure the body is fully stocked before the game begins.

Why should you eat before the game?

Training day in, day out, can reduce the body’s energy reserves especially carbohydrate stores. This is why it is essential to replenish these after every training session. But it doesn’t just stop there, it is important that carbohydrate recovery is continued right up until the start of the game.

A pre-game intake of carbohydrate ensures that you have enough of this essential energy source to compete at 100% for the whole game and not run out of energy as the game goes on, which may happen if your carbohydrate stores are not fully loaded.

What should you eat before the game?

It is important that your pre-game meal is something you like! Most AFL footballers have a favourite pre-game meal that they will have regularly eat before heading out onto the field.

Usually the pre-game meal follows a few basic guidelines:
  • High in carbohydrate
  • Low in fat
  • Foods you enjoy and are comfortable with
  • Include a fluid choice with the meal
  • The timing of the pre-game meal is also an important consideration as eating too close to the game can cause an upset stomach, while having something too far in advance can mean you are hungry during the game

It is recommended that you eat your pre-game meal about two-to-four hours prior to the game.

This allows enough time for the food pass through the stomach and into the intestines where it can be absorbed for use. The exact timing of the meal will depend on how your body handles the pre-game build up.

Anxiety and nerves can cause disruptions in the digestion process and can lead to stomach upsets. If you are someone that suffers from nerves or anxiety it is a good idea to eat well before the game and consume lighter snacks or fluid choices closer to the game.

Pre-game meal examples:
  • Breakfast cereal or porridge and reduced fat milk
  • Toast or muffins with jam/honey/peanut butter
  • Baked beans or tinned spaghetti on toast
  • Pasta with a low fat tomato based sauce
  • Sandwiched or rolls
  • Creamed rice and tinned fruit
  • Rice or noodles and low fat stir fry
  • Low fat smoothies or liquid sports nutrition supplement (like Sustagen Sport)
Hydration before the game

Hydration is an important concern for AFL footballers and drinking enough in the lead up to a game is just as important as eating well. It is a good idea to consume fluid at your pre-game meal and in the hours leading up to the game.

Sports drinks provide the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. By consuming sports drinks leading into the game you can ensure that you have carbohydrate for energy and also sufficient fluid and electrolytes for adequate hydration.

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