Game Day Nutrition by Nikoli Sharp

Game Day Nutrition

We all know that food and nutrition is important. Like all things, some value it more than others. For competitive athletes, nutrition can make a huge difference in their performance! Speaking from my own experiences as an athlete, and coming from an upbringing in an extremely athletic family, nutrition became a strict part of my lifestyle at a young age, and still resonates with me today. I have seen firsthand the importance of proper nutrition whether it is in the off season, during season, recovery, or during specific situations such as injuries; so from athlete to athlete, I hope it can bring a helpful perspective!

Many scenarios come about during the day of a game when it comes to food, and depending on the scenario, fueling your athletes body can be different in regards to time. Below are some examples you may come across while at a tournament, or have come across, with a more nutritional approach to the situation if it occurs, including alternatives with healthier choices in fueling your athlete’s body before, during, and after a game.

  • “I need sugar”: Giving your athlete candy in between games with a long sit time to “wake your athlete up” or to give them more energy, will most likely lead them into having a sugar rush and then completely plateauing during their upcoming game. An exception for sugary candy can be for a quick back to back game or during the game, something like skittles or sour patch kids can possibly help revive them, as I’m sure you have seen professional athletes such as a football player throw back some skittles before a run, but each athlete is different! There are more options for a quick burst of energy!


  1. Natural sugar choice through fruit such as strawberries, pineapple, apples, etc.
  2. Another healthier alternative would be a fruit such as an apple or banana and the option of pairing it with a small amount of a healthy fat such as nut butter.
  3. Trail mix (nuts, seeds, raisins) on its own or paired with a fruit
  • Dehydration: Instead of having your athlete chug a few water bottles and wind up getting a bad case of the “water belly” there is a much simpler way to avoid this issue!


  1. drinking more water throughout each day leading up to the tournament
  2. cutting out sugary drinks such as soda, lemonades, energy drinks, and ice teas
  3. eating more fruit the week leading up to the tournament
  • I’m starving!: Oops, your athlete ate a burger and fries and now she’s sluggish, fatigued, and feeling sick. The grease, additives, and preservatives can cause these sick feelings whether they are performing or not! Try seeking organic and all natural sources if available!


  1. Cut out the extra and unnecessary carbs (bread, cheese, fried foods) and go for the protein style (lettuce wrap) , all natural, or organic choices available
  2. Opt for a healthier protein such as grilled chicken, fish, tofu, or natural protein shake
  3. Opt for healthy carbs found in a veggie salad or cooked veggies with a source of lean protein
  • Snack options during or between games: Sometimes your athlete will have extremely long game days, and getting enough fuel in their system can be a challenge! So before you hand them the snack bar food such as a burger, hotdog, or nachos, which could lead to a sluggish performance and/or give them a stomach ache during the game, consider these options that can also be paired together!


  1. Fruit (option w/nut butter)
  2. Veggie with nut butter or hummus
  3. Trail Mix (nuts, seeds, dried fruit)
  4. Pretzels
  5. Protein shake

These are just a few alternatives among many that are light, simple, healthy, and quick energy sources that include healthy carbs, protein, fats, and natural sugars that will keep them performing with alertness, energy, and focus throughout their games!

Not every athlete is going to react the same to all foods. Not every athlete is susceptible to feeling fatigued or getting a water belly. But it is POSSIBLE and it is LIKELY to happen as your athlete gets older and starts performing at a high level. Making healthier and more nutritious choices will help your athlete not only recover more quickly after a game or tournament, but for a more focused, energized, and successful performance in the present and future!

Many different parts of the sport and being an athlete play a role, and as your athlete starts to become more competitive and determined in reaching the collegiate level,  it’s important to take all parts into consideration in helping them get there!

Written by Nikoli Sharp

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